February 28th, 2002

Who Owns the Air and Water?

John Champagne

Who owns the biodiversity of the planet? Is the distribution of these and other valuable natural resources an issue of public concern?

I think that natural resources ought to be owned by all, and those who take or degrade them should be made to pay a fee to the owners, the people at large, as compensation. This could mean that the amount of paving or pollution in the world can be kept within limits acceptable to the people simply by raising the fee when the reality, (in terms of actual pollution levels or extent of paving, for example), exceeds the level endorsed as acceptable by the people.

Conversely, when people say that pollution or paving is less of a problem than the fees designed to discourage them, then the fees should be reduced.

In either case, the reality is brought into accord with the expressed will of the people. The natural resources, owned by the people, are not taken or degraded beyond what the people consent to.

The value of natural resources has been roughly estimated to be about 33 trillion dollars per year. Equal distribution of this amount of money to all people on earth would mean that no one would live in abject poverty.

The role of government as re-distributor of income becomes superfluous when equal ownership of natural resources becomes a reality. Government can be made very small. A system of payment for use is consistent with libertarian principles. We can adopt libertarian principles as the basis of our government and society with the assurance that it will not lead to environmental lawlessness and the degradation and destruction of natural resources and environmental quality.

This will help a lot of people to come over to the libertarian side, I think. This free-market system, with equal ownership of natural resources combines essential elements of both capitalism and communism, We can achieve this by marrying green and libertarian philosophies.