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Chapter 8: Environmental Issues


Over the last twenty years environmental issues have been a hot topic. With toxins everywhere we turn, and the simultaneous threats of global warming and a descending ice age, drastic solutions are being offered.1 We are being told that if we do not radically alter our lifestyles immediately, it may be too late for the future of humanity on this planet.

This chapter has been placed after the chapter on religion for a specific reason. While we no doubt face some serious environmental problems, their is a certain hysteria that surrounds much of today's debate. Many of the solutions proposed offer doubtful outcomes, except for one. The environment may or may not improve, but should we accept their solutions, massive increases in political power for these environmental activists is certain.

Suicide has been referred to as "a permanent solution for a temporary problem." In life we are faced with trade-offs. E. F. Schumacher puts people's calls for solutions in perspective: "They always tend to clamor for a final solution, as if in actual life there could ever be a final solution other than death."2 Consequently, we should take pause when someone offers us the problems of lifestyles that promise death by age 35 or 40 in exchange for the problems of lifestyles that promise death by age 70 or 80.

In short, while environmental issues are not to be trivialized, they must be addressed rationally if we are to live better lives. The purpose of this chapter will be to approach these issues from a perspective that considers the needs of the people instead of the needs of leaders who are generally protected from the consequences of their policies by political power.

A Brief History of Environmental Thought

Concern for the environment goes back many centuries. In early times, people were attacked daily by forces they did not understand, so their natural inclination was to give the elements personalities--personalities much like their own. From this perspective, all events were interpreted as a personal reward or as a personal attack. A fortuitous event meant they were liked by the god of whatever, and an unhappy event meant the opposite.

This attitude toward nature and understanding of life is called animism: "Any of various primitive beliefs whereby natural phenomena and things animate and inanimate are held to possess an innate soul."3 According to a professor of the history of science at UCLA, "In antiquity every tree, every spring, every stream, every hill had its own guardian spirit . . . Before one cut a tree, mined a mountain, or damned a brook, it was important to placate the particular spirit in charge of that particular situation, and keep it placated."4 Being nice to nature wasn't simply a matter of disinterested people doing the right thing. "Worship of nature may be ancient, but seeing nature as cuddlesome, hug-a-bear and too cute for words is strictly a modern fashion."5 (And a strictly Western, industrial nation fashion.)

The earliest development of today's modern environmental ethos is thought to trace back to Saint Francis of Assisi, who lived from 1182 1226 A.D. At the age of 24, he took a vow of poverty and extolled the virtues of the simple life. In the remaining 20 years of his life he was successful in attracting a large following, and today, some groups see him as the patron saint of ecologists because he advocated the idea that all creatures are equal--a sharp contrast to the notion that human creatures should be the rightful rulers of the planet and everything on it.

Although Saint Francis' ethic of poverty and simplicity attracted a substantial following, the Reformation, along with the Protestant Ethic, created a whirlwind of economic activity that lead to the Renaissance and the Industrial Revolution. During these years the only people who complained about the advances were those who were being left behind because their skills did not keep pace with changes in technology, and a few philosophers from well-off families. People in general were inspired by the prospect of improving their nutritional intake and creature comforts. And if anyone were to question their right to do so, they would have considered that person insane.

Then came sturdy souls like Jean Jacques Rousseau who called attention to the beauty of wild landscapes and majestic mountains.6 His words were destined to fall upon receptive ears, for the age of technology was rapidly taking the drudgery out of travel, thanks to improved roads, the development of carriages, and not long after his death, the introduction of motorized vehicles. A century earlier, mountain ranges were viewed as obstacles to travel, and the flatlands were considered a relative blessing.

Once the industrial revolution started gaining momentum, many people started to worry about humanity self-destructing because of massive alterations of the landscape and the possibility that resources would be used up. From this concern developed the conservation movement, which got its strongest push from Theodore Roosevelt and some of his aids and cabinet members such as Gifford Pinchot. Advocates of conservationism still believed in the supremacy of the human species, but they also believed that massive government intervention was necessary to keep the great unwashed from depriving future generations of nature's abundance and beauty.

Conservationists not only believed that government officials were better qualified to manage resources, they also believed that through a "multiple-use" approach to managing dwindling resources, conflicting interests could be mediated and thereby the best of both worlds could be achieved--resource conservation and an improved standard of living for the masses. (Along with direct resource management, they also favored monopolies in the business world because only monopolies have sufficient resources for long-term planning. Also, they figured that the higher prices monopolies could charge would force consumers to use fewer resources.)

About this same time, another philosophy of resource use was developing. This philosophy has come to be called preservationism , and its origin is credited to John Muir, the founder of the Sierra Club. A popular saying that well describes the ethic of preservationism is, "It's really a beautiful spot where the hand of man has never set foot." Along with this disdain for vain human creatures who beat their breasts while proclaiming species superiority came the doctrine of the intrinsic value of nature . Nature, without human beings, is natural. Enter humans into the equation, and all of a sudden, we are plagued with artificiality. As the population of humanity increases, so does the artificiality. "The problem is that nature, the independent force that has surrounded us since our earliest days, cannot coexist with our numbers and habits. We may be able to create a world that can support our numbers and our habits, but it will be an artificial world . . ."7

In the battle between conservationism and preservationism, the preservationists seem to be winning. At least they are the ones who have captured the imagination of the public, pulling both their heart strings and their purse strings. Of course, support or resistance does appear to follow class lines, with old wealth and professionals actively supporting preservation goals, and blue-collar people and business leaders being most resistant. "Every survey that has ever been taken (including the Sierra Club's extensive polling of its own membership) has shown that support for environmentalism has been concentrated in the upper-middle-class, professional segment of society. . . . One extensive polling showed that support for environmental causes picks up strongly when income levels reach about $30,000, and then tails off again significantly above $70,000. It is about this level that the salaries of upper-echelon business executives usually begin."8 (This brings to mind a newspaper commentary some years back about the battle between the YUPPIES and the MARFIES: "young urban professionals" verses "middle-aged rural failures" in the Northwest.)

This disdain for the human species is not without some contradictions. If we are truly serious about ridding ourselves of this scourge on the planet, the remedy is simple. According to one commentator, "It's a morbid observation, but if everyone on earth stopped breathing for an hour, the green house effect would no longer be a problem."9 Some environmental advocates are quite direct about their demand for population reduction. For instance, "An ice age is coming, and I welcome it as a much needed cleansing. I see no solution to our ruination of earth except for a drastic reduction of the human population."10 Other environmental advocates are threatening us with global warming and with being washed away when the polar ice caps melt. In either case, it is agreed that the industrial revolution must be shut down, technology must be abandoned, and we must embrace an economic system that will not support such large numbers of people.

For many, environmentalism is like a religion. The faithful fill the "collection plates" and then return to their environment-destroying jobs with full faith that these leaders cannot err. "Somehow" these leaders will eliminate the many threats to environment without causing them to become unemployed and homeless in the process.

Some environmentalists are reviving pagan religions and the animism that goes with them. Others listen spellbound to apocalyptic speakers like Barbara Marx Hubbard while they predict a coming cataclysm (which will wipe out all except the enlightened souls who happen to be in the audience that day). While anti-intellectualism seems to be a rational answer to today's problems which are allegedly the result of previous intellectual efforts, this solution is not without costs. One's guilt might be relieved, but the inability to perceive contradictions can place even one's physical existence in peril.

Many of the problems we have today, motivating environmentalists to want to shut down the industrial revolution with the aid of government force, are the result of government force which was used by earlier generations who were also concerned about the well-being of humanity. These people believed that industrialization was the answer, and they set about to promote development--by force. Even today, there are adherents to the philosophy who see industrialization as the panacea to the problems of humanity.

Whatever the differences in opinion pro-growth and anti-growth groups might have about the ends, they seem to be in agreement about the means. Both groups see gaining political power as the primary tool for gaining their objective. (The United Nations has administrations within it representing both opinions.) Very little thought is given to the idea that resources might be better controlled by people whose well-being depends on the outcome of their decisions and who are liable for any harm done to others as a result of the way they use those resources.

Major Environmental Issues

Before considering some little-known middle-of-the-road suggestions, there are some issues that need to be explored in greater detail. Environmentalism ultimately deals with two primary issues: safety and ethics . Safety concerns are directed mainly toward the problems of toxicity in the environment--especially toxins that are man-made. Ethical concerns are discussed primarily in terms of preserving endangered species, with animal rights arguments offering a logical extension to any arguments the endangered species protection advocates might want to present.

Safety: Toxicity in the Environment

Everyone wants a clean and pristine environment to live in, but we have one little problem. To live, we must produce. In the conditions of the fabled heaven or paradise, there is rumored to be infinite consumption and no production. (Hell, by this definition, would mean infinite production and no consumption.) Because we are located somewhere between heaven and hell, production is necessary if we are going to meet our needs. This production, in turn, creates pollution .

Because pollution is a byproduct of human productive activity, we are challenged with two questions: 1. How much pollution is acceptable, and 2. once an acceptable level of pollution has been determined, how should these limits be enforced?

While growing up in the Northwestern part of the United States, I had somehow developed a picture of the East Coast as being one large, oil-stained concrete block stretching from Maine to Florida. Later, when I was stationed at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, I was actually shocked to see miles and miles of beautiful forests. During a long weekend trip to Connecticut, I was awed by Bashun Lake, the cleanest lake I had ever seen--I could see even deeper into the water there than I was able to see into John Henry Lake in the Oregon wilderness area. Granted, I also saw some dirty places in the East, but over all, the problems seemed to have been over-dramatized.

Another event that aroused my suspicion was my first time being up close to an oil well. After all the horrible things I had heard about "evil oil," I had expected that nothing living could exist within a considerable radius from an oil well. Much to my surprise, a cow was grazing within fifteen feet of the well. Of course, I am sure that things sometimes go wrong, that wells break and the ground gets covered with oil, but to portray those events as the general rule, rather than as a percentage, suggests an agenda that holds truth as a secondary priority.

As long as humans exist on the planet, some form of production must take place, and because production creates pollution, zero pollution is not an option unless, of course, human extermination is an option. On the other hand, total pollution is not acceptable either. Too much of anything--even too much distilled water can be dangerous. Besides, "There is no human 'waste,' only a stage in a cycle."12 Much of what we call pollution today could be yet another opportunity in a social system that provided the proper incentives.

Recent years have seen growing hysteria about "toxic" substances. (If our media can be used as a guide, we no longer have problems in general--we only have crises!) In keeping with the general hysteria, if a risk is determined to cause one fatality out of one million people, some authorities insist that the resources and labor of a thousand people must be redirected in order to combat this newly discovered threat. No thought seems to be given to the possibility that such a draconian redirection of resources might cause hazards of its own. (In Chapter 4 , we noted that poverty is also a health hazard.)

How these risks are determined can be quite amusing. For instance, an artificial sweetener was taken off the market because of a study done on mice who were fed the equivalent of 800 cans of soda a day. We can be assured that any ingredient consumed in the amount of 800 cans a day will be toxic simply because of the excessive proportions.

Risk Management and Environmental Policy

A reporter once interviewed an old timer in a mountain community. He asked the old man, "What is the mortality rate around here?" The old man replied, "One death per person." The minute we are born we start running the risk of dying, and in the long run, our mortality rate is one-hundred percent! Between birth and death, the best we can do is to reduce our risk, but no matter what we do, we can never totally eliminate it. Therefore, we should not fool ourselves into believing that all problems can be solved, and we should not be surprised if each new solution brings with it new problems.

To put this issue in a different perspective, let's consider the principles of insurance. Insurance as a concept is said to date back to Ancient China. Before the concept of risk-management arose, merchants would load all their goods on a single boat for shipment to market. (Risk management is another term for insurance.) As long as the boat did not sink, all was well. However, if the boat sank, the merchant's business was also "sunk." Then someone had a brilliant idea about how to lower the risk to any one merchant by spreading out the risk among a number of merchants. The idea was to organize a group of ten merchants who had a boat-load each to ship, and divide the freight up into ten separate boats. Then, if one boat sank, each merchant only lost ten percent of her shipment--the loss for any one merchant would not be so severe as to require going out of business.

Today these same principles are applied with the aid of the exchange commodity we call money . Like then, we cannot eliminate risk, we can only manage it. Going out of business might eliminate the risks associated with commercial enterprise, but not eating or living indoors carries hazards of its own.

Before the industrial revolution, eating and staying warm was humanity's major challenge. Europe, before the 18th century, only had population increases of three-percent per century. After the Industrial Revolution, thanks to increased productivity, population increased 300% in one century. There is no denying that life in the factories was difficult, but at least it was possible .

Now that we have the luxury of worrying an average of 70-plus years, every slight toxin risk is offered as a reason to return to the Dark Ages, if not to the Stone Age. However, before we rush back to the Dark Ages, we should remember that the life-expectancy then was 35 to 40 years due to disease and hard work. The short life-spans of those "lucky" souls who lived in "pure" nature should give us cause for pause before we frantically try to shut down all productive enterprises.

This is not to say we do not have problems, but less blind terror and more balance is needed. If we continue to overreact to these problems, we may undo many of the positive developments of the last two centuries, making ourselves worse off in the name of solving environmental problems.

The asbestos scare is a case in point. Based on predictions of a low rate of mortality from breathing asbestos particles that remain in the air after installation, billions of dollars and thousands of man-years have been spent removing asbestos from thousands of buildings. The result? Increased fire hazards from other more flammable types of insulation. Also, new studies are suggesting that the process of removing asbestos puts more fiber in the air than simply leaving it alone would have done. (New York City, in a fit of political terror, shut down its schools in response to asbestos fears, and only after being embarrassed by the long time it took to remove asbestos did they discover that the asbestos level of the outside air was in some cases higher than the asbestos level in many of the school buildings.13)

If we are not careful, we may end up being what country folk call "insurance poor." This brings to mind a story. One day an insurance salesman came to the farm to sell my father some insurance. After the salesman made his initial pitch, my father asked him, "See this place? It goes from that corner, to that corner, and to this corner to that corner over there. Now, this place is completely paid for. Do you know how I paid for it?" The salesman replied, "No." "With the money I didn't spend on insurance." Rumor has it that the salesman never returned.14

Surveying the Hysteria

Environmentalists seem to be doing their best to cause us to become "insurance poor." Many of the same people who disparage the McCarthyite scare tactic of a "commie under every bed" seem to have no qualms about trying to scare us into submission with threats of a "deadly toxin under every bed." (In the 1950s, conservatives abused liberals by taking away their government and university jobs. In the 1990s, liberals are abusing conservatives by confiscating the use-value of their property.)

It is worth noting that this hysteria over toxins is focused on industrial economies in the less-regulated parts of the planet. Little mention is made of pollution in the former Soviet Union and its satellites, pollution in non-industrial countries, or of the toxins that exist in nature. Because of this selectivity, it has been suggested that their true goals might be political, not environmental. For now, let us simply consider these three little-talked-about sources of pollution.

Pollution in Nature

First. let's consider nature's pollution. While many toxins are man-made, most are to be found in nature. In the words of one skeptic:

If environmentalists did not close their eyes to what exists in nature, if they did not associate every negative exclusively with man, if they applied to nature the standards of safety they claim to be necessary in the case of man's activities, they would have to run in terror from nature. They would have to use one-half of the world to construct protective containers or barriers against all of the allegedly deadly carcinogens, toxins, and radioactive material that constitute the other half of the world.15

Since humans first arrived on the planet, they have had to learn how to work with toxic substances. Pick the wrong kind of mushroom and . . . you know the rest. Furthermore, people have figured out that some toxins, applied in proper quantities, at the right place, at the right time, can actually offer an improvement over not using them at all.

Thousands of years have been spent trying to learn balance in making use of both toxic and non-toxic substances. However, if we keep pulling products off the market because, as in the case of one brand of bottled water, 35 parts per billion of a toxin had been found in it, we may soon have to convert microchip factories into food processing plants in our quest for purity. This, in turn, could greatly increase the cost of food, exposing all but the most wealthy to the hazards of malnutrition.

Pollution in Undeveloped Nations

The next category of pollution we hear little about is the pollution problems that plague less developed nations. In those countries, raw sewage is a serious toxin. That, combined with poor nutrition, can make for a life that is short, nasty, and in many cases, brutish.

While many people assume that advances in medicine are the primary reason we live longer, it has been discovered that improvements in what we call "infrastructure" have done more to increase the average life-span than developments in medicine. For this beneficence, we can thank such industrial creations as sewage systems, water treatment plants, electricity, central home heating, improved transportation and communications, and so on and so forth.

A certain amount of development is necessary before people can control the most obvious toxins and disease carrying organisms. People in many parts of the non-industrial world would love to only have to worry about contaminants in quantities of 35 parts per billion.

A common complaint from undeveloped nations is that the developed world has already enjoyed the benefits of industrialization, but environmental activists from the developed world want to deny them the same benefits. While the environmentalists' motive may in fact be pure, it appears as though they are saying, "I've got mine, what's your problem." In reply, leaders from developing nations say something to the effect of, "We've got lots of clean air; what we want is more smokestacks."16

A study which compared the American view of environmental problems with the Ethiopian view of environmental problems is a case in point. American environmental problems were "hazardous waste sites, water pollution from industrial wastes, occupational exposure to toxic chemicals, oil spills, and the destruction of the ozone layer." In contrast, Ethiopian environmental problems consisted of "diseases (such as sleeping sickness, malaria, and dysentery), soil erosion, loss of soil nutrients (primarily due to lack of fertilizer), lack of sewage disposal and contamination of water by human bodily wastes, insufficient facilities for treatment of drinking water, and lack of refrigeration."17

This brings to mind the old saying, "Everyone to their own poison." In this case, people from undeveloped countries are saying, "I'll trade my poison for yours."

Former Soviet Union and Satellites

To hear some activists speak, one would think that pollution only comes from nations that allow private property. P. J. O'Rourke, however, offers this reply: "And if the Perennially Indignant think pollution is the fault only of Reaganites wallowing in capitalist greed, then they should go take a deep breath in Smolensk or a long drink from the river Volga."18 In fact, some of the worst polluted places on the planet are to be found in the former Soviet Union and its satellites. After all, state-mandated industrialization was the primary goal of the leadership for quite a few years.

Of course, such extreme pollution is not only the handiwork of Communist government officials--America government installations are popular havens for pollution as well. The primary difference between the two countries is that the whole Soviet block was one large government installation for over seventy years.

The Fear of Technology

Ultimately, when it comes to combating pollution in the environment, we shouldn't be too quick to scrap the scientific and technological developments that have helped us get where we are today. Granted, we now die in our sixties and seventies due to cancer and heart attacks, but returning to an age when people died between 35 and 40 due to overwork and disease is not a rational alternative.

This brings us to yet another contradiction. On one hand, technology cannot be trusted to make incremental progress in solving environmental problems, but MIT computers can predict the weather one-hundred years in advance with sufficient accuracy to justify shutting down industry around the whole world. In other words, although technology that supports production is guaranteed to destroy the world, technology that supports political agendas for eliminating technology is somehow sacrosanct.

A popular example of doom and gloom brought on by the technological excesses of the free market is the issue of nuclear power. In the 1950s it was determined that nuclear power must be developed at all costs. When it was learned that private insurance companies could not insure the new power plants at affordable rates, the Atomic Energy Commission did a study which culminated in the Brookhaven Report. This report estimated potential losses at 3,400 lives, 43,000 injuries and $7 billion in property. The problem of liability was solved on September 2, 1957 by the Price-Anderson Amendment to the Atomic Energy Act. The Nuclear Energy Liability Association (NELIA) and the Mutual Atomic Energy Liability Underwriters would pay the first $60 million of liability, the taxpayers would carry the next $500 million of liability, and the victims would happily carry the rest.

In retrospect, we now know that more Americans have died in media-inspired panics to escape the scene of a nuclear accident than have died in nuclear accidents themselves.19 Nevertheless, we still must admit that the free market would not have permitted nuclear power without additional advancements in technological development. It took a lot of government force to unleash nuclear power upon the world at that stage of development.

Whereas politicians once used the force of government to promote the development of nuclear power at all costs, people are now calling for politicians to use that same force to ban nuclear energy, thereby foreclosing the possibility of it becoming a viable technology at some future time. Somewhere between forcing technology into use before it is ready to support itself and banning technological development altogether there must be a middle ground. Between the extremes of prohibition and subsidy there is still plenty of room for innovation. In fact, our hope for a better future lies in that area between these two extremes.

Environmental Ethics and Human Survival

In recent decades, new questions have been raised that fall under the heading of environmental ethics . The two primary issues these debates have raised are species protection and animal rights . In this section we will look at these arguments. Also, we will consider the ethics of the environmental movement itself.

Proponents of protecting "endangered species" insist that humans have no right to use resources to the extent that any species should go extinct. Some even insist that human intervention should be made regarding species that are going extinct due to natural causes. Finally, to insure that non-believers conform, using government power to support these ends is frequently advocated.

The next aspect of this debate is animal rights . Proponents of animal rights insist that it is immoral for humans to consume meat and animal products. There are two basic premises from which this assertion is made. The first is that all species are of equal value, and that for humans to aggress against animals in the pursuit of survival is just as morally reprehensible as it is for humans to aggress against one another.

The second argument suggests that animals feed on one another because that is their nature. Humans, on the other hand, have the capacity to feel guilt, and because of that, they should withdraw from the competition for survival. Some animal rights activists are content to honor their ideals by being vegetarians, and are willing to let their actions speak for them. Others insist that people should not even have pets because any kind of relationship with animals automatically constitutes exploitation, and they feel justified in using the full force of government to insure conformity.

Thus far, animal rights sympathizers are still limited to debate in order to persuade others to join their ranks. Occasionally there are a few extremists who sneak out in the middle of the night and castrate a prize bull to liberate it from "exploitation" by its owner. Luckily, they have not yet suggested that humans should commit mass suicide in order to free up resources for all the other species who are "equally" valuable. (Even vegetable gardens take precious space that could be used to feed other species.) That job is being handled by the "endangered species" camp.

I have grouped both camps together because each, in their own way, are saying that humans have an unfair advantage in the competition for survival and that we should offer other species a handicap. On the surface, this might sound like the caring thing to do. However, there are a few assumptions that deserve scrutiny.

First, they declare that all species are of equal importance in the larger scheme of things. From the perspective of "the universe" or God, humans may be relative micro-organisms and hard to distinguish from other creatures. In truth, humans might not be important to the larger universe, but does that mean we should not be important to ourselves?

The second assumption is that humanity qua humanity is hostile to all other species. In fact, like other creatures, humans find some species useful and other species threatening. Useful species find themselves nurtured and hostile species find themselves abused. Even the most chauvinistic specieist is not in favor of eliminating all other species. Therefore, the endangered species debate is really about protecting species that are either hostile to human life, or at least do not support human life directly. We are not likely to see activists laboring feverishly to keep cows, sheep, cats and dogs from going extinct. Common people actively labor everyday to preserve those species.

The next argument declares that all species have a right to survive according to their nature, with the one notable exception--human beings. It is here that the logic breaks down, because if humans do not have the right to survive according to their nature, that means not all species are equal after all. To quote Orwell, "All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others."20

Another dimension of the endangered species debate is its effectiveness in stopping development. Consider environmentalism of the suburban variety:

Nor does one have to be absolutely privileged in order to find environmentalism useful.
It need only be a matter of relative privilege. I have often felt that the conversion to environmentalism occurs shortly after an urban, middle-class family finally purchases its first suburban home in, let us say, Maple Grove acres. The family looks out the window at a beautiful field next door and exclaims, "At last, we're living in the country." Two months later, however, a nearly hysterical neighbor arrives with the bad news: "Do you know our beautiful field next door? Well, it's actually Maple Grove Acres II, and the builder is going before the planning board tomorrow night to get final approval on construction. We've got to go down and stop him." It is at this moment that an environmentalist is born. The problems of endangered species, overpopulation, and the deteriorating quality of life become startlingly real. It is time to stop development and start worrying about fragile ecosystems.21

In other words, these people are saying, "I've got mine, what's your problem?" Occasionally, there is an honest soul among them such as the New Jersey town mayor who confessed, "I agree it's somewhat ludicrous that we had to go to a blue-spotted salamander to fight this, but what we're really talking about is human critters."22 Environmental laws are replacing zoning laws as the weapon of choice in controlling our fellow "human critters."

Of course, not all advocates of animal rights and environmentalism use coercion to get their way. In fact, a movement for voluntary environmentalism is growing. Nevertheless, the environmental movement enjoys a great deal of political power, and that power needs to be understood.

Coercive Approaches to Solving Environmental Problems

In Chapter 3 , we surveyed the three types of coercion people use against one another: force, fraud and guilt. In this section, each strategy will be considered, starting from guilt, which is the most subtle, to force, which is the least subtle.


In the last chapter we explored the technique of promoting impossible ideals for people to aspire to, and how this strategy has given incredible power to religious and political leaders over the centuries. Much of environmentalism, like many religions, promotes "survival guilt," and it has so far, proven very effective at filling its "collection plates." This same guilt has also proven extremely effective for removing obstacles to lobbying for political action designed to separate resources from the people whose livelihoods depend on them.

Of course, lust for power isn't the only motivation. This might come as a surprise, but there are people out there who don't like humans. John Muir, founder of the Sierra Club, once mused, "Honorable representatives of the great saurians of older creation, may you long enjoy your lilies and rushes, and be blessed now and then with a mouthful of terror-stricken man by way of a dainty."23 That is truly a slow and painful way to cure the population problem. (But no doubt a tasty idea from an alligator's viewpoint.) Other environmentalist dream of more efficient ways to solve the population problem. "Until such time as Homo Sapiens should decide to rejoin nature, some of us can only hope for the right virus to come along."24

What was once a demand for productive people to sacrifice themselves in order to insure that hapless humans were taken care of has now been expanded to include hapless species as well. Of course, productive people will naturally continue to fight for survival even if they accept an ethic that suggests that they become extinct in order to give other species a "fair chance." And like religious leaders have done throughout history, environmental leaders of today are collecting a hefty ransom on people's guilt.


Some environmental leaders have insisted that the end justifies the means. For instance, Stephen Schneider was quoted in the October 1989 issue of Discover magazine as follows: ". . . To do this, we need to get some broad-based support, to capture the public's imagination. That, of course, entails getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have. This 'double ethical bind' we frequently find ourselves in cannot be solved by any formula. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest." Maybe this explains why problems are a thing of the past. They have been replaced by crises!

Every now and then we hear religious leaders proclaim that the world is ending. Their followers quit their jobs, give away everything they own, move to a place of rapture, and wake up the following morning, homeless and broke. Making dramatic changes based on spurious claims tends to make life harder whether our goal is to live better in this world or to prepare for the next.


The first two forms of coercion have gathered momentum and have coalesced into large government agencies, giving bureaucrats the power to substitute their judgment for the judgment of those depending on resources directly for survival. There is a growing list of cases where people are going to jail for violating those bureaucratic edicts. Not just ordinary people, but environmental consultants as well. According to The New American , "The EPA's most recent prisoner is Bill Ellen of Virginia, a conservationist and environmental consultant who is now serving time for 'destroying wetlands' by constructing duck ponds on previously dry land!"25 As is true of much administrative law, the citizen is at the mercy of the whim of the administrator. And of course, when law is no longer objective, the lives of the common people become a "crap shoot."

This is not to say that the majority of people sympathetic to "endangered species" and who want to live in a clean environment are foaming at the mouth fans of oppression. But oppression is the goal of some environmental leaders: "Coercion is a dirty word to most liberals now, but it need not be forever so. As with the four-letter words, its dirtiness can be cleansed away by exposure to light, by saying it over and over without apology or embarrassment."26 As with any holy cause that claims it is more important than human life, the lavish use of coercion to support that end is justified in the minds of the true believers.

The Failure of Coercion

Before we decide that the environment is best protected by coercive means, we need to remember that the most polluted places on the planet are those very places where governments enjoyed total control. In the United States, for instance, the most polluted areas are found either on government installations or on "public property." Yet most environmentalists' suggestions call for strengthening the power of government in order to solve the problems of the Western industrial world. (It worked so well in the Soviet Union!) These activists demand virtually unlimited political power on both the national and international level. No doubt, the intentions of most activists' are noble, but the Bolsheviks promised Russia a "worker's paradise" too.

The Tragedy of the Commons

That which is owned by everyone is taken care of by no one. "Garrett Hardin gave the problem its best definition in his famous 1968 essay, 'The Tragedy of the Commons': . . ." In general, people take better care of what they own personally than they do of things they share in common with others. While some philosophers decry the self-absorption that such behavior represents, those rebukes have done little to change anything. (Besides, the philosophers and politicians who exhort the masses to sacrifice for the "common good" are usually the administrators of the programs. Close scrutiny will also reveal that few politicians manage their personal lives according to the principles they impose on others.)

In addition to selfishness, there is yet another reason why people will use resources as quickly as possible before anyone else gets the chance to use them. "Poor but secure smallholders rarely overburden their land; dispossessed and insecure rural households often have no choice but to do so. Access to a resource without control over it can be equally harmful. Nothing incites people to deplete forests, soils, or water supplies faster than fear they will soon lose access to them. Neither hired workers, nor hired managers, nor tenant farmers care for land as well as owners do. In Thailand's forests, squatters given long-term rights to use their plot care for the land better than squatters with no legal standing, but not as well as those who own their plots outright."27 With no rights to future control of the resources on which our survival depends, we can only live for today.

Some time ago I attended a meeting of water engineers and consultants who volunteer to help villages in Africa solve their water problems. The speaker showed us an excellent slide presentation of his last trip. It was apparent that they were doing some good, but they also admitted that they would like to have done more. For one thing, they had problems with livestock polluting the water collection ponds with feces, which in turn attracted disease organisms.

After the presentation I asked the speaker how property was managed. He indicated that it was communal. I then suggested that communal property may well be the problem. In that setting, the only decision makers are the village chief, and possibly the young village college graduate who comes back and plays the role of social worker and advisor. The rest of the village must do basically what they are told. On the other hand, if people had their own little plots of land, one could start a water-capture company, another could specialize in beef, and other people could specialize in other areas as well. This would increase the number of people who were actively creative, and it would encourage long-term planning as well.

Speaking of water, a well-known "tragedy of the commons" is found on most rivers and waterways in the industrial nations as well. These important resources are managed politically because they have been deemed "public property." Of course, we know differently. In reality all property is owned, simply because control is the essence of ownership . Therefore, a river, for instance, is the property of whatever politician happens to be in office at the time. An industry that wants to escape the true cost of disposing of their byproducts will find it easier to influence several politicians, whose interests in the river are minimal, than to negotiate with a host of citizens down-river who owned the river from the banks to the center. Were the rivers owned to the center by private citizens, the true costs of production would be known up front and businesses would have to devise more thorough business plans before they commenced operations.

Subsidies for Destruction

One issue that has been popular for years is the cutting of the rain forests in Brazil. This whole debacle is being made out to appear as if "greedy peasants" are wantonly destroying forests even to their own long-term disadvantage. We would do well to ask, even if these people are greedy, and their vision is short-term, why has this operation been able to persist for so long? (It is widely acknowledged that cutting down the forests cost more than the exposed soil brings back in revenue.) The reason this tragic enterprise hasn't gone bankrupt long ago is because the Brazilian government is subsidizing the building of roads, and over all, for every dollar invested in this venture, it is estimated that only fifty-five cents in revenue is generated. "In one area, Brazil gives settlers 100-hectare (247 acres) farms for only a nominal title fee. Settlers can recover their relocation costs by selling timber and then become eligible for agricultural credits on the cleared land. The government spends heavily to build roads and other infrastructure to support the immigration, up to an estimated $12,000 per family."28 In addition, the Brazilian government, "supported by World Bank loans--ha[s] sponsored resettlement programs that encourage people to clear tropical forests to create new cropland, even though that land will only sustain cropping for a few years."29 Needless to say, only a government, or in this case, a couple of governments, can sponsor such a losing venture for any length of time.

To sum up the fiasco, "Many so called land reforms in Latin America have simply exported the rural underclass to a fragile rain forest frontier, where new settlers lay waste to ecosystems previously harvested for generations by tribal people. Almost without exception, the net effect of state land policies has been to curtail drastically common property resources open to the poor without expanding their private property resources commensurately."30

Since the date of the above article, good news has been announced. "Brazil, responding in part to international criticism of the burning of the Amazon rain forest, withdrew tax incentives from ranchers doing much of the burning."31 Of course, this doesn't say that all road building and the other forms of subsidy have stopped, but it does acknowledge that resource use is influenced strongly by government policy.

Property Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Another aspect that is being overlooked is the "property rights" of the Indians living in the rain forests. (Much the same as the rights of the American Indians were ignored during the westward expansion of the 19th century.) Of course, these people do not conceive of property in the same way as people in advanced civilizations do. To be fair, then, people from advanced civilizations need to at least assign property rights to them and then limit interaction with them to voluntary association, with an emphasis on exchanging ideas first, and goods and services later.

That last assertion is bound to bring up the question, "but what are all those poor Brazilians supposed to do?" Good point. First, look into the social system and ask why most of the good land is held by a few politically-connected landholders, leaving everyone else to camp out on a rock somewhere. According to William Tucker, "Latin America is probably the most inequitable area, with as much as 90 percent of the land in some countries held by small elites."32 Although Alan Durning offers different figures, the inequities are further confirmed: "Yet ownership of farmland is concentrated in the hands of a fortunate few. Latin America has the worst record. The skewed landownership there is a legacy of colonial times, when Spanish and Portuguese rulers established vast plantations; 1 percent of landlords commonly own more than 40 percent of the arable land."33

In short, rather than push the dispossessed into the rain forests to kill the Indians who live there, they need to look at the use of government force that has already been used to protect the interests of that privileged one-percent. This will not be easy given that Iberian culture in general has a winner take all attitude toward life. According to a speaker I heard recently who was an immigration official in Latin America, there are two codes of morality--one for every one else, and one for the elite. Lawrence Harrison supports the immigration officer's observation by saying, "the Brazilian ethical code . . . is reinforced by familism, which sanctifies a double ethical standard for dealing within the family, on the one hand, and with the broader society, on the other."34

In short, were they to relate equitably among themselves, they would not have to violate the rights of people living in the rain forests. On balance, we are faced with conflicting interests exacerbated by the discriminatory use of political power.

All the dismay about what deforestation is costing the planet in terms of scenic beauty and ecological balance is tempered by the thought that people have to survive. You can't simply tell a peasant farmer that the world needs the forest more than he needs his crop.
That scenario, real as it may be, is also too simple. Human needs may drive the destruction of forests, but government policies worldwide accelerate it. This is the conclusion of the World Resources Institute in a new study titled The Forest for the Trees? Government Policies and the Misuse of Forest Resources .35

Endangered Species and Property Rights

In the case of many endangered species, the system by which they are managed often contributes to the problem. In Africa, some nations hold elephants to be public property, and then try to protect the elephants with anti-poaching laws. Other countries, such as Zimbabwe, place the stewardship of elephants in the hands of citizens by allowing them to be the property of individuals. In countries where the elephants belong to everybody, their numbers are verging on extinction, while in Zimbabwe, where private citizens own them, their numbers are growing at a rate of five percent per year.36 In short, species that serve the well-being of humans should not be hard to protect so long as we assign stewardship to the people whose livelihoods hang in the balance.

As for those species whose existence only creates grants for graduate studies and donations for environmental groups, our problems are a little more difficult. With the growing plethora of laws that threaten people's right to use their property should an endangered species be found on it, we are getting results opposite of what the lawmakers had hoped for. One example is the "shoot, shovel and shut-up" strategy that has been used by property owners in the United States who fear losing their life's savings through governmental control or confiscation of their property. While this behavior may seem callous and insensitive, we need to examine it from a larger perspective.

The counterproductive nature of draconian violations of humans in favor of non-humans is further explained as follows:

R.J. Smith of the Competitive Enterprise Institute is an avid bird-watcher and former president of the Monmouth (N.J.) Audubon Society. Smith notes that around the turn of the century the wood duck became an endangered species. The ducks now thrive, not due to government regulation but to private landowners who built boxes for the ducks to use in nesting. Something similar happened with the osprey. But things have changed since the ESA.
At present, Smith notes, "there is no incentive to help the spotted owl" since building boxes for the birds will only attract predatory regulators. In this way the ESA, Smith adds, provides "perverse incentives" and creates a "lose-lose" situation.38

Where do all these regulatory brainstorms come from? Obviously, they come from people who are not dependent on those resources for survival. We can be certain that most of these people feel safely insulated by their governmental paychecks and/or their professional occupational status.

Our average $30,000-to-$70,000-a-year environmental supporter in the city takes great pains to keep from losing their suburban homes and BMW's. They install burglar alarms, challenge property tax increases at city hall, and invoke the endangered species act to keep new houses from being built on adjacent open spaces. In other words, they are expecting their country brothers to do what they themselves will not do. Hopefully, it will not sound too callous to suggest that when environmentalists stop trying to own and maintain property, only then can they rationally expect their country brothers to do the same.

If we want to get to the root of environmental problems, we need to look at the way the coercive sector of the economy is motivating and rewarding short-sighted activities by funneling money toward counter-productive enterprises, and by passing laws that threaten to wipe out lifetimes of work and savings.

Free Market Environmentalism

After years of observing the abuses of government power, and all of the unintended consequences that come from even legislation with good intentions, there is a growing movement of people who call themselves "free market environmentalists." They admit that private ownership of resources will not solve all problems, but they assert that it will still offer a considerable improvement. This attitude is more defensible both practically and psychologically.

On the practical level, "perfectibility is always present as a goal but is understood to be something to work toward, although unlikely to be completely realized. Imperfections and shortcomings are to be expected and accepted."39 Instead of administering draconian preventative measures, more emphasis is placed on resolving disputes as they develop in as fair and equitable a manner as possible. This contrasts dramatically with the utopians, who presume that guns in their hands will do more good for humanity than tools in the hands of ordinary people. When utopians are in control, "[I]nevitable flaws are seized upon by spiritual and political leaders . . . to induce guilt."40

On a psychological level, we are reminded once again of Eric Hoffer's observation: "In their fanatical cry of 'all or nothing at all' the second alternative echoes perhaps a more ardent wish than the first."41 We have already seen the carnage that results from people following the siren song that says, "justice-forever can be produced out of injustice-today ."42

Fortunately, the universe is not such a hostile place that it would pit the laws of nature and the laws of human psychology against one another. In this section we will consider some reasons why these new "free market environmentalists" ought to be taken seriously. (Assuming, of course, that our goal is to help the environment rather than some other unstated motive.)

Pride of Ownership

Although not all problems will be solved by encouraging people to own and maintain property, on balance, conditions will improve. When I was driving a school bus in Denver, it was very apparent which neighborhoods were occupied by home owners, and which ones were occupied by renters. (Also, I had fewer disciplinary problems with children from the neighborhoods where home ownership was more common.) For every hundred people who throw trash on their neighbor's lawn, only one will throw trash on his own lawn.

While it may sound sweet and noble to consider others with the same sincere concern that we have for ourselves, the truth is we seldom do. Adam Smith, in Wealth of Nations , observed that a small personal problem will cause us more alarm than a major calamity in India will (unless, of course, we happen to be in India). If a neighbor dies, we become philosophical and say, "such is life--it will happen to all of us." But should we smash a finger, we will agonize for weeks over it.

Given this inherent self-centered nature of our specie, who can we expect to be the best steward of resources? A person of modest intelligence whose very survival depends on using resources wisely, or a genius who "commands all he surveys" and who will get paid no matter how poorly those resources are used. My bet will be placed on the former.

Private Ownership and Private Liability

Along with the opportunity to use resources to better one's condition in life should come the responsibility to compensate others who are harmed by poor judgment. That would mean the end of "sovereign immunity" for government, and the end of "limited liability" for those creatures of the state we call corporations. The value of limited liability is evidenced by the fact that investors willingly pay a lot of money in fees and endure double taxation in order to enjoy it. What they are really buying is government force which transfers risk from investors to the larger community. This is not a strategy calculated to encourage responsible stewardship. (The corporation can still be useful for capital formation and for providing operational continuity should any principle die.)

In fact, many of America's environmental problems stem from the attitude of the court's in the last century. "[I]n the 1850s and thereafter, a new philosophy began to permeate the legal fraternity. It was determined that the 'public good' required economic progress. In the view of an increasing preponderance of judges, this could only be attained by supporting manufacturing. So when the aggrieved victim of pollution next appeared before the bench, they said, in effect, 'Our primary goal is to facilitate a rising GNP. In order to do so, we must give carte blanche to polluters. Your selfish private property rights are in the way of the greater good for the greater number, and must be swept aside.'"43

Obviously, violations of property rights in favor of polluters did not help the environment nor did they serve the cause of justice. On the other hand, violating peoples' property right in favor of a pure and pristine environment will not serve the cause of justice either. "When we take the whole environment seriously, we will acknowledge that our primary moral obligations are to respect the persons, the liberties, and the rights of those among whom we live. After all, these are the people upon whose cooperation we must ultimately rely, whether it is to 'make a living,' to 'save the earth,' or to see the realization of any other of our larger aspirations."44

Keeping Government Ownership to a Minimum

Government ownership of land, under this theory, would be kept to the minimum required to provide security for its citizens. Beyond that minimum, the rest would be sold to the people, thereby letting the market determine the best use of the land.

With more land on the market, resources would be more affordable and available for more uses. Do some people want to protect wolves? Let them purchase a few mountain ranges for their pet wolves, and let them be responsible for compensating farmers when stray wolves prey on farm animals. (One "save the wolf" group is already doing the second program.45) Concerned about the spotted owl? If tracts of land for growing trees are available closer to cities, and the Forest Service is no longer subsidizing the timber industry by building roads,46 some of the old-growth forest could be sold at a very reasonable price to people who love owls. Finally, there would be no reason why groups with compatible goals couldn't join together to purchase large tracts of land. Nothing would stop spotted owl lovers and wolf lovers from forming a joint venture.

Another benefit of getting resources out of the hands of bureaucracies is the market's ability to clean up messes. When a private citizen misuses resources, the value of the property decreases. This means opportunity for someone else who is willing to buy the property at a discounted price and then work to build it back up again. When bureaucrats make mistakes, there is no corrective force, expect for possible EPA extremists who insist that places like Colorado's Rocky Mountain Arsenal should be made cleaner than it was to begin with. Otherwise, such monuments of pollution can stand as a monument to bureaucratic wisdom for generations, not doing anyone any good. (Except by staying out of sight until after the original policy makers either retire or die.)

Voluntary Environmentalism

Fortunately, there are already efforts under way to galvanize voluntary support for preservation of the environment. There are two organizations in particular who do not use government coercion as their main strategy for achieving their objectives, They are the Nature Conservancy and the Audubon Society. These organizations solicit voluntary contributions, and the Audubon Society even has oil wells on its property, which also helps fund their activities. Unfortunately, while they promote voluntary action, they are not averse to using government coercion when it supports their cause.

In any case, a letter to the editor of the Nature Conservancy magazine indicated that not all environmental organizations are located on the "lunatic fringe." The letter starts with, "Many Americans who are concerned about environmental issues have become skeptical of the environmental community. As John Sawhill pointed out (September/October), the inability of many groups to avoid hyperbole is probably harming the entire movement." Apparently this writer is not ready to give everything away in preparation for the rapture. He then went on the say, "Sawhill's statement is an example of the level-headed approach taken consistently by The Nature Conservancy. It is precisely because of this approach that I recently joined the Conservancy and enthusiastically support its mission."47

Granted, the Nature Conservancy was recently lambasted by some free market environmentalists for sleeping too close to the government, and the chief legal counsel of the Audubon Society is opposed to compensating property owners when government edicts take away the use-value of property, but statist habits die hard. At least they are thinking about alternatives to coercion.

Rational Reasons for Resource Conservation

According to some, without the wise and steadying hand of government, the majority of humans are predisposed to foul their nest. Once again, "people with guns invariably make better decisions than people with tools." It may come as a surprise to some, but on balance, people want to live as long and as comfortably as possible. That means that government only needs to guide people toward peaceful and productive activities as the means of fulfilling those desires.

Philosophers throughout the ages and from many traditions have offered simple living as the ideal. Gandhi suggested that we "live simply that others may simply live." Filling the hole in the soul with material goodies does tend to leave one feeling hollow.

It can be argued that excessive resource use indicates a spiritual crisis on the part of those who must exploit so many resources. That may be true. Looking to our possessions for self-esteem is a losing proposition, and working ourselves silly to acquire plumage in order to engage in the breeding process can be quite laughable. However, there are two additional points that must be considered.

First, nature does not drop one acorn and then beseech fate to give her another oak tree--she drops thousands of acorns to see which ones will germinate. In human experience, "[o]ften when we renounce superfluities we end up lacking in necessities."48 Secondly, we need to ask, is the abundance we seek in the interests of supporting life or in the interests of destroying life? If we seek our abundance through service instead of through force, others may benefit from our actions even if our souls are wretched and our lives meaningless.

It is one thing to make a vow of poverty for ourselves, but it is yet another to force that vow on others. Yes, materialism may well represent a spiritual crisis, but forcing others to be spiritual is also a spiritual crisis.

Religious Aspects of Environmentalism

In the last chapter, we discussed the power religions have gained by demanding that people aspire to impossible ideals. When people accept such an ideal, they take on a burden of guilt that can never be paid off--only regular installments to the weekly collection plate can be made, with payments stopping only when the ideal has been achieved: death.

Environmentalists are not concerned with protecting species that humans nurture because of their usefulness. They are concerned primarily with species that most people feel either neutral or hostile toward. Of course, they do not have to protect useful species because non-environmentalists do a great job of protecting them.

The protection of species without regard for man's well-being is justified by the doctrine of "the intrinsic value of nature." George Reisman characterizes the resulting dilemma as follows:

. . .caribou feed on vegetation, wolves eat caribou, and microbes attack wolves. Each of these, the vegetation, the caribou, the wolves, and the microbes, is alleged by the environmentalists to possess intrinsic value. Yet absolutely no course of action is indicated for man. Should man act to protect the intrinsic value of the vegetation from destruction by the caribou? Should he act to protect the intrinsic value of the caribou from destruction by the wolves? Should he act to protect the intrinsic value of the wolves from the microbes? Even though each of these alleged intrinsic values is at stake, man is not called upon to do anything. When does the doctrine of intrinsic value serve as a guide to what man should do? Only when man comes to attach value to something. Then it is invoked to deny him the value he seeks.49

More and more, we are seeing what amounts to a subdued "holy war" where people who use finished goods fight people who make finished goods. The philosophies that justify such activities can only be perpetuated by a willingness to ignore the fundamental requirements of life, or a strong desire to exchange a reduction in material well-being for an increase in power over humanity. (Or both?)

Do Humans Have The Right to Compete
With Other Species For Resource Use?

If the author of Desiderata was right in asserting that humans have a right to be here just the same as "the trees and the stars," that would mean we as a species have a right to compete with other species for the use of resources, and the right to transform them to meet our needs. To assert otherwise is to betray less than charitable feelings for humanity.

Some people make the charge that humanity is vain when it assumes the right to brutalize other species at their pleasure. Implied in this charge is the notion that these critics have the right to brutalize other humans in defense of other hapless species.

It is true that humans brutalize some species while they nurture others. Even the ones they nurture, they do so because they intend to use them later. It has been said that man is the only animal that can make friends with his dinner. Supposedly, this indicates that humans are immoral, as if hating our dinner would somehow make us noble and virtuous.

To all this I suggest we lighten up, relax, and know that we too will soon be harvested. Those who do not like using resources do not have to use them. In the meantime, it would be nice if they allowed the rest of us to live long enough to possibly comprehend their wisdom.


The essence of the environmental debate is whether resource use should be controlled by force or voluntary association. Thus far, the bulk of the environmental community seems to have cast their vote in favor of coercion.

While we humans are free to do whatever we want, which includes controlling and killing other humans, we must admit that killing ourselves and each other in the name of survival is counterproductive. (Unless we know that we will be reincarnated into that very protected specie were are fighting for.)

The main hazard of choosing coercion over voluntary association is that it can be like releasing an angry genie from a bottle. Today's bureaucrat may use force in support of our cause, but his replacement might well execute us tomorrow. Changes happen more slowly when people have to be persuaded (i.e. to be reasoned with instead of coerced), but when progress is made in this way, it's beneficial effects will endure longer.

Footnotes for Chapter 8:


"World Legislative Bill Number Six: Emergency Earth Rescue Administration," Provisional World Parliament, Design and Action for a New World (Lakewood, CO: World Constitution and Parliament Association, 1988), p. 14.


E.F. Schumacher, Small is Beautiful (New York: Harper & Row, 1973), p. 66.


American Heritage Electronic Dictionary (Sausalito CA: Writing Tools Group, Inc., 1991).


Lynn White quoted in William Tucker, Progress and Privilege: America in The Age of Environmentalism, (Garden City, NY: Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1982.), p. 147.


P.J. O'Rourke, A Parliament of Whores: A Lone Humorist Attempts to Explain the Entire U.S. Government (New York: The Atlantic Monthly Press, 1991), p. 196.


The irony implicit in these philosophers praising the rugged beauty of nature did not escape everyone. "Jean Jacques Rousseau and Frederick Engels, if they had lived in the primitive state which they describe with nostalgic yearning, would not have enjoyed the leisure required for their studies and for the writing of their books." Ludwig von Mises, Human Action: A Treatise on Economics (Chicago: Henry Regnery Company, 1966), pp. 165-166.


Bill McKibben, The End of Nature (New York: Random House, 1989), p. 170.


William Tucker, Progress and Privilege: America in The Age of Environmentalism, (Garden City, NY: Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1982.), pp. 31-32.


Newsweek, December 30, 1990.


David Foreman quoted in Gregg Easterbrook, "Everything You Know About the Environment is Wrong," The New Republic, April 30, 1990, p. 18.


Even more pollution is created by human destructive activity, but little mention is ever made of this fact.


John Lobell, The Little Green Book : A Guide to Self-Reliant Living in the 80's (Boulder CO: Shambhala, 1981), p. 321.


"A $4 million EPA review of asbestos data, including a survey of 170 schools published in 1991 by the Health Effects Institute-Asbestos Research, found indoor asbestos levels to be lower than that outside buildings." Tim Brown, "The New York Asbestos Debacle," The Freeman, February 1994, p. 92.


In the last year, another hapless insurance salesman fell into my father's trap: "Why should I buy insurance if I have to hire a lawyer when I need to collect on a claim?"


George Reisman, "The Toxicity of Environmentalism", The Freeman, September 1992, p. 340.


The head of the Swedish delegation quoted in Shirley Hazzard, Defeat of an Ideal: A Study of the Self-Destruction of the United Nations (Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Co., 1973), p. 233.


James R. Dunn and John E. Kinney, UNCED: Environmentalists vs. Humanity? Unpublished paper, May 28, 1992 (available from PERC). Cited in Jane S. Shaw, "Things Are Better Than We Think (And Could Be Better Yet)," The Freeman, June 1994, pp. 276-277.


P.J. O'Rourke, A Parliament of Whores: A Lone Humorist Attempts to Explain the Entire U.S. Government (New York: The Atlantic Monthly Press, 1991), p. 196.


Thomas Sowell, "Trying to eliminate all risks is dangerous way to go", Rocky Mountain News, Oct. 13, 1993, p. 35A.


George Orwell, Animal Farm (New York: The New American Library, 1946), p. 123.


William Tucker, Op.Cit., p. 38-39.


Ibid., p. 184.


John Muir quoted in Bill McKibben, Op.Cit., p. 176.


David M. Graber, book review of Bill McKibben's The End of Nature, Los Angeles Times Book Review, October 22, 1989, p. 9.


William F. Jasper, "Environmental Police State," The New American, May 17, 1993., p.11.


Garrett Hardin quoted in Leonard Peikoff, Ominous Parallels (Briarcliff Manor, NY: Stein & Day, 1982), p. 290.


Alan B Durning, "Ending Poverty," State of the World 1990 (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1990), p. 145.


"Forests Felled by Economic Policies," Rocky Mountain News, June 6, 1988, p. 42.


World Watch Institute, State of the World, 1989 (New York: Norton, 1989), p. 29. Quoted in J. Wilson Mixon, Jr., "Keeping Bad Company?," The Freeman, April 1994, p. 190.


Alan B Durning, Op.Cit., p. 147.


Lester R. Brown, "The Illusion of Progress," State of the World 1990 (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1990), p. 15.


William Tucker, Op.Cit., p. 117.


Alan B Durning, Op.Cit., p. 141.


Lawrence E. Harrison, Who Prospers?: How Cultural Values Shape Economic and Political Success (New York: BasicBooks, 1992), p. 41.


"Forests Felled by Economic Policies," Rocky Mountain News, June 6, 1988, p. 42.


Raymond J. Keating, "Book Review," Man and Nature (Irvington-on-Hudson, NY: The Foundation for Economic Education, 1993 ), The Freeman, September 1994, p. 534.


Jo Kwong, "Environment and Free Trade," The Freeman, February 1994, p. 64.


K.L. Billingsly, "Owls, Ferrets and Free Markets," The Freeman, May 1994, p. 251.


Lawrence E. Harrison, Op.Cit., p. 17.


Ibid., p. 17.


Eric Hoffer, The True Believer (New York: Harper & Row, 1951), p. 73.


Leslie Dewart, "Introduction," From Anathema to Dialogue: A Marxist Challenge to the Christian Churches (New York: Vintage Books, 1968), p. 22.


Walter Block, "Private enterprise leads to pollution.", Mark Spangler, ed. Clichés of Politics (Irvington-on-Hudson, NY: The Foundation for Economic Education, 1994), p. 269.


Jonathan H. Adler, "Book Review," Roger E. Meiners and Bruce Yandle (eds.), Taking the Environment Seriously, (Rowman & Littlefield, 1993) , The Freeman, April 1994, pp. 215.


"Hank Fischer, the Northern Rockies representative of Defenders of Wildlife says that the Endangered Species Act (ESA) has been ineffective on private lands, which harbor fifty percent of endangered species. Fischer's group compensates ranchers when wolves kill livestock. The group also pays ranchers to let wolves develop on their land." K.L. Billingsly, Op.Cit., pp. 251-252.


"We need only look as far as the nearest national forest in Colorado to see how government policy distorts natural market forces. Timber sales in this region return to the taxpayers only about 20¢ on each dollar the National Forest Service spends for roads and other accommodations necessary to harvest timber." "Forests Felled by Economic Policies," Rocky Mountain News, June 6, 1988, p. 42.


James Holmes, "Never Cry Wolf," "Letters [to the Editor]," Nature Conservancy, January/February 1994, p. 4.


Eric Hoffer, Op.Cit., p. 34.


George Reisman, Op.Cit., p. 338.

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