NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

To Improve Environment, Go Local

July 11, 2011

Arguments for smaller government imply that local control will produce better environmental policy because representatives are closer to their constituents and, therefore, more responsive.  It is also argued that competition between multiple smaller governments leads to better policy outcomes.  When governments compete, constituents win, says Sarah Anderson, an assistant professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

There are typically three arguments given for local representation offering better solutions to environmental problems:

  • First, local governments better represent local interests; there might be shared values between local interests and the interests of free market environmentalists.
  • The second, and more compelling, argument for local control is that representation of local interests produces better environmental outcomes.
  • The third argument for local government as preferable to larger governments is that multiple jurisdictions can facilitate competition, even for public goods.

For local problems there is no strong argument against local control, says Anderson.

Source: Sarah Anderson, "Think Local: When and For Which Environmental Problems?" Property and Environment Research Center, Summer 2011.

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