libertarian / public property

Wed Sep 20 11:24:12 MDT 1995

Chris M. Sciabarra says:
>Louis, I really do understand your concerns, but I really do  >
believe that many of the huge externalities for which we commonly
fault the  > market are actually a result of the absence of property
rights  > specifications and accountability in law.
> Lake Baikal in the Soviet  > Union became an ecological disaster
BECAUSE everybody owned it, and  > hence, nobody owned it.   Nobody
was held accountable for their use of  > it.

Jamal replied:
[snip, snip]  There are many places around the world which are fully
public, and they are not polluted or destroyed.  If people
collectively decide that some public land has meaning to them, then
only an occasional spoil-sport will ruin it. It takes the
bureaucratic bungling of overblown state-systems, or capitalist
profit seeking (corporate or not) to pollute rivers, streams, and
oceans. [snip]  Chris uses the right-wing libertarian capitalist
argument that it was the _good_ aspects of socialism which make
socialism not work, not the bad aspects of USSR central-planning
which messed up the USSR.

Lisa says:
I think I know what Chris S. is getting at, and it is not just plain
evil.  I've seen some of it in the context of discussion of
environmental protection regulations and methods, where the point was
still to "protect" and the question is how.

Under capitalism, the absence of property rights in things like
forests, rivers and air can be seen as part of the mechanism by which
anybody can discharge anything because nobody "owns" that public
good, so nobody has the legal "right" or recourse through state/court
systems to do anything about it.  "If people collectively decide that
some public land has meaning to them" then it will somehow be
protected, is a vague generality that does not address the question
of just how this shall be done.

Which people?  Organized in what way?  By what means?  Only the
people who live in a specific region?  That's how the ranchers and
loggers would like to regulate grazing and logging on "public" land
here in the west.  What's it to anybody back east or to those
pointy-headed university intellectual environmentalists if Wayne
county is completely deforested or San Juan county is devegetated and
erodes entirely into the Colorado River?

As I understand it, the idea of giving people property rights in
public resources is that it would actually establish [under
capitalism] a more directly "accountable" relation between profiters
and the public owners of public resources.  In order to discharge
wastes [create externalities] or to extract resources, a profiter
would have to gain permission of the "owners" _instead_ of going to
the government for a permit, perhaps a vote of approval among
"share-holders"? or something like that.

The idea is that government is a poor representative of what the
people want, it has its own priorities, it is subject to bureaucracy,
manipulation and corruption, etc.  So the establishment of public
property rights would be a way to cut gov. out of the deal, and
create a working mechanism for the people's will to be expressed and
enforced through already existing property laws and courts.  The
point is that while stuck in a presently profit/propertarian society,
where we all "own" public property and resources, we are now denied
the normal, legal benefits of ownership.  So we now get _neither_
socialism _nor_ a good price for the use of public property for
private profits.

I am not proposing that this be implemented, I have not studied it
enough to say much more.  But I hope to have shown here that it is
not simply evil or a service to profiters.  Some marx/soc that I know
will certainly not find it revolutionary because it does not propose
to dispose of capitalism whole hog.  Nonetheless, it is an
alternative to the present method of envir. protection under
capitalism, and it seems rather more democratic and likely to provide
better protection than what we have enjoyed so far.

For anyone who would like to see a better world/society, I hope that
there is some thought about _how_ _exactly_ things like env. prot.
might/could/should be done.

Hey Sciabarra, did I get anywhere near your mark?  Of course, I offer
this post as my own, whether or not I got what you were referring to.

Lisa Rogers

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