How Property Rights Could Help Save the Environment

Here’s the third of the highly recommended series of Jonathan Adler essays on the power of property rights to mitigate the tragedy of the commons. Jonathon concludes with this essential advice to policy advocates. Please note that the reality Jonathon describes is especially applicable to energy policy (emphasis mine):

(…) Environmental problems are difficult, and typically defy easy solution. Though I believe in property-based solutions to many (if not most) environmental problems, the viability of such approaches should not be oversold. At the same time, the environmental limitations of property rights and markets should not be overstated, particularly in comparison to the viable regulatory alternatives. In environmental policy we rarely have the option of pursuing a clearly identifiable “ideal” approach. Rather, our choice comes from the collection of second-best (and third-best, fourth-best, etc.). The question is not which approach is perfect, but which approach is better (or not as bad) as the others.

Read the whole thing. As we try to explain to anti-nuclear, pro-solar advocates – we don’t have the option to choose amongst riskless options. All industrial scale energy options have risks and environmental impact. Only magical thinking offers risk-free, affordable options.