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Clearing the Air: Four Propositions about Property Rights and Environmental Protection

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Type: Journal Article
Author: Cole, Daniel H.
Journal: Duke Environmental Law & Policy Forum
Volume: 10
Date: 1999
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/3340
Sector: General & Multiple Resources
Global Commons
Region: North America
Subject(s): property rights
environmental degradation
air pollution
carbon sequestration
Abstract: "Privatization is sweeping the globe. Since the Reagan-Thatcher revolution of the 1980s, governments around the world have been selling off public assets to private owners in order to improve efficiency and increase production. Between 1985 and 1994, $468 billion worth of state enterprises were sold off to private investors. But privatization so far has been limited to state enterprises. Governments have not, with a few notable and highly controversial exceptions, gun selling off their vast natural resource holdings, including forest lands, parks, and waterways. This is a mistake, according to some economists who claim that the same economic arguments favoring private ownership of economic producers (polluters and resource users) also support private ownership of natural resources (i.e., environmental goods). As Richard Stroup and Sandra Goodman put it, government ownership and control works just as badly with environmental resources as with all other resources. In their view, privately owned natural resources would be better managed not only economically but environmentally. But critics argue that the claims of these so-called free market environmentalists are unrealistic, based on faulty premises, overly reliant on anecdotal evidence, and oblivious to economies of scale and the transaction costs of resource privatization."

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