Friday, February 23, 2007

Respect of public property rights lagging acceptance of private property rights

We have established a social/ political/ legal framework that embodies a strong respect for private property rights. We expect that those who take or damage or degrade the value of private property will be made to pay some compensation to the owner.

We do NOT have the same political and legal protection of public property rights. This lack of protection can be understood in light of the fact that citizens have yet to demand that these rights be respected. Business and industry may pollute the air and water beyond what most people would say is acceptable, but they are not required to pay compensation to the people at large when they degrade the quality and value of that which belongs to all of us.

If we were to pay attention to public property rights in the same way that we attend to private property rights (if we were to require compensation be paid when damage is done or value taken), we could solve many of the world's most vexing problems. For example, where clean water is scarce, we could charge a substantial fee to those who take it or degrade its quality in pursuit of profit.

Smaller problems can be addressed, too. Where noise is excessive, we can charge a fee in proportion to the intensity and duration of environmental noise. Where most people say that street lighting, car dealerships, advertising signs, fast-food restaurants, etc., have spread so much artificial light that we have lost too much of the view of the stars at night, a fee can be charged to those who cause light pollution. The fee can be made just high enough to ensure that there is a balance between the number of people who say we have too much light pollution and the number who say we have too little outdoor lighting. A system of surveys can reveal whether there is a balance and, if not, it can show where the error lies.

Who really owns the view of the stars? We all do. To the extent that some would act in ways that would deprive us of that which is ours, they should be made to pay compensation. This is the conclusion of a radical view of property rights that insists on bringing public property rights into the equation.

Respect of public property rights will mean that those who take or degrade natural resource wealth for profit will have more incentive to use it efficiently. More efficient use of resources is a key factor in determining whether a society can adapt to resource scarcity. Adapting to resource scarcity is a challenge that our civilization will be faced with for decades to come.

Many problems in the world today are caused by abject poverty. If people have a modest income that represents their share of natural wealth, they could do for themselves the things that have traditionally been done by charities or through government programs, (or that have not been done at all, as the case may be).

Many problems are caused by government programs designed to help the poor. If we respect public property rights along with private property rights, (by charging appropriate fees to those who take or degrade natural resource wealth and giving the proceeds to the people at large), we can reduce pollution, preserve natural resources, and end abject poverty--without onerous government programs which are often a disincentive to seek opportunities for productive, income-generating activities. Any policy that dampens people's interest in seeking gainful employment (productive work) drains a society of wealth and vitality

Respect for public property rights and accounting for the value of natural resources would mean a change of human economy and society. We would see a transformation of society from something that resembles a cancer on the Earth (consuming beyond what is reasonable and sustainable, jeopardizing the health of the planetary system) to something that looks more like a healthy nervous system for the planet, where fees incorporated into the price mix will inform us about environmental costs. A more accurate price signal will cause our behavior to change in ways that promote environmental health and sustainability.

A Biological Model for Politics and Economics

Walter Cronkite for President - Should we only consider those who promote themselves, or should we look for someone who most all Americans would say might be a good or great president?

(This post was censored from something called "Free Republic", and I was banned. Free in name only, I would say.)

If our Presidential selection process isn't working well, let's change it. Who would you want to have as President, if you could ask anyone? Walter Cronkite thought that we need new thinking in this area. He put out a survey asking this question. We missed our opportunity to draft him.

(We should get Jon Stewart in that office.)


No comments: