NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


February 23, 2006

The American public has shown significant concern for environmental quality since the first Earth Day in 1970, yet the maze of environmental laws and regulations enacted since then has fostered huge government bureaucracies better known for waste and failure than for innovation and success, says Jay Lehr, science director of the Heartland Institute.

In "Re-Thinking Green," 22 economists and political scientists explain how environmental quality can be enhanced more effectively by relying less on government agencies, which are increasingly politicized and unaccountable, and more on environmental entrepreneurship and the strict enforcement of private property rights. Among the authors' claims:

  • The Endangered Species Act of 1973 encourages property owners to do everything possible to avoid having endangered species take a liking to their land, whereas a law rewarding property owners for acting as stewards of endangered species would be far more successful.
  • "Smart growth" plans subsidize high-density urban living while creating unaffordable housing, air pollution and increased traffic congestion.
  • Environmental bureaucrats ignore legal tools compatible with capitalism and the free market, such as common law of trespass and nuisance, and instead they embrace command-and-control concepts that hinder efficient environmental protection.

Source: Jay Lehr, "Property Rights Improve Environment, Book Says," Heartland Institute, February 1, 2006.


Browse more articles on Environment Issues