Re-thinking Green, Alternatives to Environmental Bureaucracy edited by Carl P Close, Robert Higgs Independent Institute Press Oakland, usa
The environmental movement that emerged in the us during the 1960s focused public attention on pollution, urban sprawl, and destruction of wilderness. 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.
Could the us have done better than this failed environmental bureaucracy? The contributors to this volume answer with a resounding "yes."
The book examines some of the most hotly debated environmental issues in the us: oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, global warming, endangered species, land use and air quality. The editors argue that "environmental quality can be enhanced more effectively by relying less on government agencies that are increasingly bureaucratised and unaccountable, and more on communities as well as on environmental entrepreneurship".
The contributors muster an array of statistics in support of their arguments Let's sample a few: By 1990, 25 years of regulations enforced by the us Environmental Protection Agency had cost the us economy an estimated 22 per cent of the manufacturing output that otherwise would have been produced. Federal and state agencies spent us $529 million per year on endangered-species protection during the 1990s, but haven't come close to saving every threatened species in the us as required by law.
Well said. But let's not forget that neo-liberal anti-regulation theories can bring together a diversity of arguments. In Re-thinking green, the supporter of community-based conservation lies cheek-by-jowl with the votary of private business. There is a Kyoto Protocol basher as well. In the section, 'Global Issues', Bruce Yandle says that the accord might actually give leeway to Shell Oil and British Petroleum because their natural gas and coal preserves allow them to cope with the treaty's restrictions better than their rivals.
Re-thinking green promises alternatives to "environmental bureaucracies". It degenerates into hackneyed neo-liberal bashing of regulatory policies. Lauding private initiative is all too well. But make no mistake. Without regulations, private corporations turn into Leviathans, much more unwieldy -- and unhealthy -- than bureaucracies.
Peter Casper is a Boston, usa -based radio journalist
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