Government and the Environment: a Role to Play?

In response to the anarachist or anarcho-capitalist argument that the government must take no role in environmental protectionism or defense of nature–that the free market will do it for us. And to attempt so is amoral if/when no property rights are infringed upon.

So fundamentally here is a logical concern I have with the “anarchist utopia” you describe. I have about 200 examples of this, but I’ll distill to one and settle for this: “what about the bees, Tim?”

I’ll qualify this a bit. 😉 Many sub-species of the common honeybee … did you know they’re going extinct? 7 separate specifies of them were placed on the endangered species list in October of this year alone. If we lose the honey bee, there goes avacados, strawberries, even coffee (and I know your caffeine addiction is still in full swing.) that’s just the immediate known impact to help drive awareness. Who knows about the untold effects this might have on the entire ecosystem and the global process of pollination.

Why do I bring this up? Because I guess I just don’t see the logical ties between an anarchist society of change driven by impacts to property rights and the systematic upheaval of an entire insect species. The latter is one of negative externalities and the impacts of systematic nonchalance in terms of our (humanity’s) impact on the delicate ecosystem. More to the point, how could I ever prove that the factory 20 miles away is adversely impacting the honey bee population on my property? I don’t think I could. Nor, even if I could, would my “damages” (even in aggregate, say as part of a class action) be seen as anything but trivial in a court of law. To clarify – the “damage” isn’t truly done to me until the entire species is close to eradicated (either locally or in whole). Then the damage is to the entire city/state/country/world. But by then the damage is done and impossible to resolve through any legal system you describe!

Thus environmental “pre-crime” (as you called it), of employing measures damaging or serving to eradicate the bee population–even when property rights are not yet infringed upon–to my mind must be a crime in and of itself. And if that logic holds then the only logical entity to fill that role is the state.

Thus I assert that for the greater welfare and protection of its citizens a federal and/or state government must be called upon to handle threats to the safety of its denizens–threats both domestic and foreign. In my mind the threat I bring up is environmental; and it’s every bit as real as an invading foreign army. Which is why the state must take a role in some capacity here.

Now the next logical question might be how successful is the already too powerful state at curbing these national and global threats today? And I would argue they are abysmally awful at it–so how can an even reduced government (as I propose) do any better? This is probably a better question and one I don’t have good answers for at the moment. I can only hope/speculate that with a REDUCED mandate a federal or state government would be far more competent than it is today. Said another way, if they didn’t have a mission statement to control everything (and do it poorly) as they do today, they could have a clear field of vision and actually be successful. “Less is more” approach…

 

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