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

Brent Neal brentn at freeshell.org
Sun Apr 19 14:18:32 UTC 2009

On 19 Apr, 2009, at 1:07, Rafal Smigrodzki wrote:

> 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.

Fortunately, there is another remedy. If we're going to postulate the  
"libertopia" that you are suggesting here, then I and my like-minded  
friends can resolve this by evicting you from your property by force  
of arms in order to prevent you from destroying that value. This will  
make sense when the cost of the police action is less than our  
economic valuation of the destruction you and the other property  
owners are causing.

Now, economics also tells us that there is such a thing as competitive  
advantage. In general, governments have a competitive advantage in  
military matters, because of the need for pooled purchasing power in  
order to fund police forces. I and my like-minded friends would thus  
be well-advised to choose to delegate that power and responsibility to  
a government that we elect for that purpose.  Some government  
officials, realizing that there are a lot of people out there who  
would choose to engage in aggressive externalization of costs in the  
environmental arena due to ignorance or malevolence, would likely  
establish a standing committee to understand when an externality is  
being imposed and to ensure that the participating members have their  
economic interests protected.

Last I heard, we called that the EPA.


Brent Neal, Ph.D.
<brentn at freeshell.org>

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