Economic Rights and Environmental Wrongs

Economic Rights and Environmental Wrongs

Property Rights for the Common Good

Rose Anne Devlin and R. Quentin Grafton

The crisis of environmental degradation has createcharemd an immense volume of literature which focuses on controlling environmental problems. Economic Rights and Environmental Wrongs goes one step further to extend and complement the current debates.

Chapter 6: Property Rights for the Common Good

Rose Anne Devlin and R. Quentin Grafton

Subjects: economics and finance, environmental economics, environment, environmental economics


Page 129 6 Property Rights for the Common Good 6.1 LESSON LEARNED Economics and the Environment For some, the word “economics” conjures up images of environmental degradation by big business, unbridled greed, resource exploitation — in short, visions that are  anathema to a caring, environmentally sensitive society. In fact, economics has much to offer people who are concerned about environmental degradation and resource  exploitation, and provides guidance as to how these difficult problems may be solved. The ‘‘economics” approach to the environment, including natural resources, focuses on the importance of identifying the externality that underlies the problem at hand.  Environmental problems stem from the fact that the full cost of someone's actions is not being borne by that person (or firm). Polluters do not pay the full cost of their  emissions, and resource users do not take into account the costs imposed on others by their activities. Once the externality is identified, we need to determine who is  not paying the full cost of their actions. Solving the problem entails forcing the polluter or the user to internalize this external cost. The essence of the economic model,  therefore, is that everyone should be forced to bear all of the costs of their actions. To illustrate the power of the economics framework — and why some polluters would prefer that environmentalists did not rely on it — let's consider the example of  the Exxon Valdez oil spill off the coast of Alaska. On 24 March  Page 130 1989, the Exxon Valdez oil tanker ran...

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