Opinion: Free Market Environmentalism
I consider myself an environmentalist. I constantly try to recycle, walk, bike, carpool, pick up any trash, donate to environmental causes, minimize my utility usage, use my own reusable straws/ bottles, etc. I encourage others to do the same; most of these things are the bare minimum one can do! One thing I don’t do, however, is advocate for federal authorities to force others to do the same.
I acknowledge that capitalism, the economic system of free exchange of goods and services, allows for the most competition and voluntary exchange. This is why you see the closer a country gets to a pure free market, the more efficient and clean it is. Wealthier countries, following their phase of industrialization, end up being best for the environment. The Kuznets Curve explains this economic concept in an environmental context, and generally holds true according to most indexes.
Countries like Switzerland, Ireland, the United Kingdom, and Denmark are ranked high (top 10) both on the 2020 Index of Economic Freedom and the 2018 Environmental Performance Index. If the rankings alone aren’t convincing enough, please feel free to look into their methodology by following the links; there is a strong correlation between capitalism and healthy environments.
Many opposers of “capitalism” and free markets like to cite a 2015 Carbon Majors report that claims about 71% of greenhouse gasses since 1988 came from 100 companies. What people fail to mention is that almost all of these emissions come from “companies” that are either majority owned, managed, or subsidized by the government. The top four are all majority government-owned: China (coal), Saudi Arabian Oil Company (Aramco), Gazprom OAO, and National Iranian Oil Co.
Meanwhile in the United States, the EPA, the agency dedicated to protecting the environment, sent millions of gallons of waste into rivers and later said it will not pay claims for its mistakes because the U.S government can use “sovereign immunity” as an excuse to avoid being held accountable. This is all on top of government central planning already wasting resources in many of their other agencies; a recent report states that the US military alone pollutes more than 100 countries combined. We should never allow the government to regulate or run our environment; it is inherently inferior to the private, competitive alternative.
If the government really cared about carbon emissions and physical pollutants, they would be playing a larger part in promoting nuclear energy, which produces recyclable waste and is virtually 100% carbon emission free in production. Meanwhile, things they have sponsored such as paper straws are often less recyclable and generally cost multiple times more than their plastic alternatives.
Pushing inefficient goods, even if it ultimately aims to be environmentally friendly, can be more harmful to the environment than helpful. The biggest threats to our climate are economic consequences; promoting prosperity and financial freedom allows people to adjust to the problems we can’t control while giving them capital to focus on the betterment of their communities.
Monopolies (including many government organizations such as the military) are more often than not inefficient because they don’t have competition. Inefficiency leads to a waste of resources or unnecessary use of resources.
Think about it: what is better for the environment? Someone conserving water and saving electricity or someone using it abundantly without care? Being profit-driven, which usually means keeping costs low and maximizing efficiency, inherently promotes the use of less resources as well as aiming for sustainable and competitive methods. Appearing as a cleaner company to attract customers is an extra incentive for businesses to pursue sustainable methods. We should let competition filter out the less economical, less environmentally friendly companies.
I encourage everyone reading this to stay environmentally conscious while holding their places of business accountable for their environmental impact. Use your power of the dollar when deciding which organizations to support, and hold them to the highest standard of eco-friendliness and sustainability possible. It is important to remember that the cheapest option is sometimes better for the planet than the more expensive “green” alternative.
In the mid 2010’s, a typical hybrid was seen as worse than an electric vehicle like a Tesla, but manufacturing of the new car showed Tesla’s new cars at the time were much dirtier and emmitant compared to most hybrids; their batteries were challenging to recycle and their manufacturing accumulated thousands of more pounds of carbon debt. Your carbon footprint can be hundreds of pounds greater with this green option, yet government intervention in some US states and other countries subsidized these companies or gave tax incentives and fueled the problem as a result. Again, we see that artificially propping up cost-challenging technology, now being proposed again, isn’t doing the planet any favors and actively impedes on people’s liberties.
In the end, it’s important to do your own research, but I strongly encourage voting against the next “green” regulation or tax you can. We see even during the coronavirus outbreak, planes wasted thousands of dollars and gallons of gas because of a government regulation and bureaucratic plan. Businesses naturally aim for the most efficient products, and consumer demand promotes greener innovations.
Private businesses are obviously not perfect, but we can trust the ones seeking a profit will not waste and extinguish resources unnecessarily. The ones that are more wasteful or expensive eventually lose to competition unless the government helps it stay alive like Suniva Inc. and others, which harms taxpayers by stealing money from them and giving it to a failing business. Even for endangered species, there are free market approaches outlined by organizations like the Property and Environment Research Center that perform better than any government management has.
I now hope that people realize fighting for freer markets is fighting for a cleaner planet. We should promote wealth and prosperity as part of the solution: if a person is just scraping by living, it is more difficult to donate to environmental causes or take time out of your day to pick up trash, bike rather than drive, etc.
Government regulation is not only often counterproductive to help the environment, but it adds costs to companies that are providing cheaper goods and services, making people’s disposable income smaller to help the environment and protect themselves from inevitable natural disasters. Littering and polluting should be illegal because they violate property rights, not because it is especially bad for the environment. In this way, protecting liberties and rights enforces a strong environment. We need a free market economy with the enforcement of property, life, and liberty in order to maximize freedom and environmental performance.