Biodiversity

Chris M. Sciabarra sciabrrc at is2.NYU.EDU
Thu Oct 12 18:08:31 MDT 1995


On Thu, 12 Oct 1995, Kevin Geiger wrote:

> I am not certain it is that simple.  I think you need more support
> to your assertion that the "non-market record with such problems is far more
> devastating."  Granted there were some major problems in the former USSR
> and its satellite republics but there are some major non-market
> environmental laws in the US that have been very successful, like the
> Wilderness Act of 64.  If this non-market approach was not initiated the
> market would have gobbled up the public resources as you and others
> maintain (correctly) it has done on Forest and BLM lands.  A market response
> in 1964 would have had a "far more devastating" impact because wilderness land
> would never have been set up under a market principle.  The free market
> environmentalism paradigm fails to adequately "value" wilderness land.  I have
> heard your Dr. Terry Anderson explain that people need to be charged for
> the USE of public lands:  Forest, BLM and Wilderness.  But since so few
> people use wilderness land the price would be outrageously high.  The result
> under a strictly free market principle would be to get rid of the land since it
> not only fails to make money but, in fact, costs money.  This is
> just not acceptable and most Americans would agree because wilderness
> land (areas that cannot be developed) are important.  A recent
> survey of areas located near federal wilderness land documented that 81% of the
> respondents thought wilderness was important for their area from the
> standpoint of solitude, open space and the people it attracts.  (Bates et
> al, _Searching Out the Headwaters_ 1995 pg. 77)  It is also true
> that people who never have stepped foot onto wilderness land
> consider wilderness important for its existence value.
> Wilderness, to a vast majority of Americans, is not something that needs to
> pass a free market test.  It has already passed a far more rigorous test in the
> minds of people throughout the country.

	I simply don't know how poor the market record would be
considering that public lands have never been privately owned.  But I do
know that the "public" record isn't that good.  I don't know what market
possibilities there are for wilderness lands, but I do know that there's
adequate information out there to show that unowned public resources are
plundered.

> To address your concerns in the USSR, many of the problems can be explained
> through the context of the Cold War.  Consider that the USSR was involved in a
> "war" with the more developed and advanced Western capitalist nations
> that had more economic power.  Rapid industrialization, not the form of
> development, caused the majority of the environmental problems you are
> referencing.  For the USSR environmental degradation was a consequence of the
> USSR's perceived need to industrialize fast in order to survive against
> its Western rivals.

	I agree that the USSR was involved in a "war" -- but as you have
already stated, its not that simple.  Rapid industrialization with no
property rights did not allow for the internalization of externalities,
and my only point was that it is simply not the case that markets are the
only generators of externalities.  States have shown a far greater
capacity to generate such externalities because they socialize risk.

> Don't get me wrong.  I believe the USSR did some competing itself with
> the West.   The infamous shoe banging incident at the UN does indicate that
> competition was a two way street.  The USSR played a game
> that it could cut corners in environmental quality to industrialize fast and
> beat the West.  We know they were wrong, but the blame should not be laid only
> on one side.  The West did its share to push the USSR into rapid
> industrialization out of fear as well as visions of a worldwide Socialist
> system.
> Yes, there *is* always a better way but some things just don't need the
> tinkering of mankind's perverse hands.
> Kevin Geiger

	Agreed, Kevin.  The West shares more than its burden for the Cold
War; some libertarians would say that the West is more to blame for the
Cold War than the Soviets.  So, I'm not being a-contextual here; I'm
merely observing that the problem of biodiversity is not simply a
"market" problem since non-market systems have shown an incapacity to
deal with the problem.

					- Chris
Dr. Chris M. Sciabarra, Visiting Scholar, NYU Department of Politics
INTERNET:  sciabrrc at is2.nyu.edu
URL:  http://pages.nyu.edu/~sciabrrc


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