Property Rights for the Common Good
Page 37 3 Property Rights for Pollution 3.1 THE PROBLEM In any given day in Mexico City, breathing air can be dangerous. The 21 million or so individuals of the world's largest city cannot take for granted that this necessity of life will not make them sick. In North America and elsewhere, people listen for the forecasted ultraviolet radiation index before deciding on their daily activities because spending even a few hours in the summer sun can be a health hazard. How can it be that participating in activities as natural as breathing and strolling in the park are now considered by some to be life threatening? Although the reasons for dirty air in Mexico City are different from those that have increased UV exposure, the basic cause of these two problems is the same pollution. Pollution does not only result in problems of a grand scale, but it affects us daily in numerous ways. Neighbours playing music too loudly affect our ability to enjoy peace and quiet. Garbage strewn in the park lessens our enjoyment of the outdoors. Proximity to magnetic fields can increase the likelihood of cancer. And the list goes on. From our examples in Chapter 2, we know that an acrosstheboard policy of zero pollution is often not in society's best interest. One way to ‘‘solve” the pollution problem is to establish private property rights for pollution. Here, we show how this solution works by focusing on realworld cases where property rights have...
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