[ExI] External costs (was Re: are all cultures equivalent?)

Rafal Smigrodzki rafal.smigrodzki at gmail.com
Sun Apr 19 05:07:51 UTC 2009

On Sat, Apr 18, 2009 at 3:00 PM, Brent Neal <brentn at freeshell.org> wrote:
> On 18 Apr, 2009, at 11:34, Rafal Smigrodzki wrote:
>> On Sat, Apr 18, 2009 at 11:03 AM, Brent Neal <brentn at freeshell.org> wrote:
>>> On 18 Apr, 2009, at 1:20, Rafal Smigrodzki wrote:
>>>>  It can be dealt with by
>>>> describing the property rights relevant to the stream, and letting
>>>> involved parties hammer out deals.
>>> Which is, in a real sense, what the Clean Water Act does.
>> ### Not really. You can't call other users of your lake and agree to
>> start dumping garbage - the EPA goons will prevent you from doing that
>> no matter what owners of the lake want. Regulation preempts trade.
> Because you can't gain agreement from users of the lake that are 100 years
> in the future, nor can you recompensate them.

### The hypothetical users 100 years in the future do not exist, and
even if they came into existence, they do not have a property claim on
the lake, therefore they cannot have a claim to recompensation. They
may however eventually buy it from present owners. The expectation
that they may be interested in buying the lake is a way for the
present generation to include the utility of future generations in our
trades, suitably discounted. If I expect that I can sell the lake for
a higher price in 20 years as long as I keep it clean, I may choose to
keep it clean so as to realize profits. This process is amplified
especially if financial intermediaries with very long time horizons
are involved - like insurance companies and private banks (their time
horizons are much longer than the ones exhibited by e.g. government
bureaucracies or government-regulated banks). In this way,
polycentric, decentralized trade enables maximization of utility over
long time periods, not possible with more brittle, monopolistic

You can agree to start dumping
> nuclear waste in the lake and -permanently- destroy the lake. What amount of
> money do you consider to be ample recompensation for that?

### Let me reiterate - only owners of the lake have a claim to
restitution if the lake is destroyed by third parties. Third parties,
and especially only hypothetically existing humans of the future, do
not have any claims at all.

Present owners of an object, such as a cheeseburger, an Escher
drawing, or a lake, may elect to permanently destroy their property -
this is implicit in their rights of ownership. They may conclude that
they are better off if they transform the lake into a nuclear waste
repository and collect payments (let's assume here they invented a
method for keeping the waste there, in safe containers, similar to the
cooling pools currently used to store waste in nuclear power plants).
Their economic calculations are nobody's business.

> The EPA "goons" are in the right on this.

### Obviously, the EPA is not seeking agreement from future
generations nor does it strive to maximize utility over the whole set
of present and future entities, so you cannot claim that possibility
that people would exist in the future in any way justifies the
existence of the EPA. On the contrary, since the EPA imposes enormous
costs on us, and delays progress, it is an insufferable, immoral
imposition and a nest of minions of Belial himself. 'Nuff said.


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