I wrote the following Environment Platform a couple of years ago for the Ontario Libertarian Party.
From my point of view now, I feel more uncomfortable with the phrase “Libertarian government”. I agree with the main principles involved still, but I would express them differently now.
There seems to be a top-down tone to it, and I’m afraid that could be interpreted in a wrong-headed way as seeking to impose a way of life on people who don’t want it. The intention is idealistic and the idea is to leave people alone and let them make arrangements with each other.
Especially, now, I would be very careful about what I mean by wanting to have everything privately owned. I’m referring to regular taxpayers who have funded the current system and not to the fascist process of building up public property with taxes and then selling it off to privileged corporations. I wouldn’t agree with “auction” now. I think taxpayers are entitled to their share. Also I think resources that were taken by colonialism could be peacefully negotiated among individuals and groups – sovereignty and property could be treated as separate issues.
The public should not be treated unfairly in any way and should really be able to decide individually the form of compensation for all the years of taxation, or whether they would like to hold resources such as parks or highways in common. But the key is not to treat individuals unjustly or ignore their personal sovereignty.
This is all idealism, and these ideals ignore the elephant in the room, which is that the world is not moving in the direction of individual rights and freedom. It is moving towards ever greater centralized control of all resources.
These ideals – like the word “private” – are already abused by those in power. “Private” is not good in itself. The world is in “private” hands – banks, corporations and foundations control governments (the use of force) believe it or not – and that is not a good thing. We need empowerment for everybody.
“A Libertarian government would introduce a system in which owners have full control of their property to the extent that their actions do not infringe on the rights of others.
Pollution and Restorative Justice
Pollution of another person’s property, including their body, is a violation of individual rights. Pollutants refer to substances that are harmful or unwanted from the point of view of the injured party, and can include noise, odours, toxic and non-toxic substances, radiation and litter.
Polluters must be held strictly liable for the harm they cause to health and property, and be required to cease the pollution and/or provide compensation acceptable to the injured party.
Such a libertarian system of restorative justice would be costly for offenders, and would have a powerful deterrent effect. However, this would not be a sufficient reform, as another major weakness in the current system is the prevalence of public property.
Public Property vs. Private Property
Private ownership of property leads to responsible maintenance of that property. The owner has invested in it, so he evaluates the costs of his own actions and the actions of those to whom he rents. With publicly owned land, there is little incentive for users to respect the resources they use.
Only 11% of land in Ontario is privately owned and the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources holds jurisdiction over 88% of Ontario’s forests. With a Libertarian government, this situation would be corrected. Public lands would be auctioned off to private individuals, businesses and groups who could make use of them, including First Nations communities.
[Note, 2012: Now, I would have second thoughts about this kind of policy considering that privatization is part of the process of confiscating resources with the first phase being socialization or nationalization. What I am actually intending to mean is just redistribution of resources to ordinary people who are entitled to it – in some cases that may be a community or an individual. The resources have already in effect been confiscated by elites using government power. The system operates as private-public partnership. If there was collective-decision making and democratic input, then a redistribution policy towards private property ownership and empowerment could be justified in my opinion. People may choose to leave some resources public. But the chances of this being allowed to happen are low.]
Today when a company dumps toxins in a lake, the government threatens them with fines. In a libertarian system, lakes would be divided among property owners for fish and other resources, and those owners would be much more motivated to detect pollution and take legal action.
Property rights will need to be defined in more detail, especially in the case of air and water. The water that flows above and below the ground can be described in terms of property. Each household owns the proportion that they use. Both the air and water – polluted or otherwise – flow into and out of a definite space that is also defined as a person’s property.
Ownership of rivers follows the riparian system in Ontario, which is a sound common-law system of ownership based on usage. Unfortunately, Ontario has a comprehensive permit system which enables the province to supervise all major consumptive uses of water.
Natural resources would become the property of those who access them, based on agreements with landowners who control the source. Private owners of parks and beaches could open them to the public. There would also be private hunting and nature reserves in which owners had a vested interest in protecting endangered species.
In a libertarian system, land use will be determined by owners and not by governments! Governments will not be able to override the decisions of owners in the interest of revenues or “green space”. No one except the owner will decide whether he is doing too much with his resources or too little. Libertarians will repeal the numerous oppressive land management laws such as the Greenbelt Act, which prevent property owners from developing their property as they wish.
Free Market Solutions
Since pollution would be costly for violators, respect for the health and property of others would be much more common. Property owners would pay responsible waste management services to remove all kinds of waste. The disposal rate for a particular material would reflect the reality of real costs and would tend to affect the buying habits of consumers. In turn, consumers would cause manufacturers to reconsider their materials.
A genuine free market would be a major factor in controlling pollution. Beach-goers, for example, care about pollutants in the water and sand. Also, consumers are interested in how their foods are produced. There would be more consumer information services to provide data about the safety of products. Insurance companies would offer better deals for responsible owners to cover possible infractions.
Agreements among neighbours would be another factor that would replace top-down regulations. Property owners and tenants would make contracts concerning levels of pesticide use. Airports and airlines would deal with property owners directly and pay them to allow a specified level of noise onto their property.
In a libertarian society, each person will own his own life and will be free to decide the type and quantity of substances he is willing to expose himself to. In order to avoid liability, owners will be pushed by economic concerns to make employees, residents and customers aware of this information.
A libertarian society will empower people to be aware of their own environment. They would test their own air, soil and water (using companies that specialize in testing), and would take charge of what goes into their bodies and homes. They would decide what they can and can not live with.
Many people have serious concerns about air pollution in Ontario. For automobile pollutants, property owners would complain to those who managed highways and roads. The companies that replace the Ministry of Transportation could be sued for pollution. As a result, those who administered roads would tend to charge drivers higher fees unless they switched to cleaner fuels and technologies. Property owners living adjacent to the road could sign contracts to allow a certain level of air and noise pollution in exchange for fees or shares in the road companies.
Liberty is Human-Centred
Today there is a lot of hot air about respecting nature, but there is no respect for the nature of man, who requires freedom to act and choose. “Green-house gases”, such as carbon dioxide, which are blamed for global earth-warming are a natural by-product of living and breathing human beings. Individuals must be free to do what they think is best for their own well being, and that includes burning fuels to heat their homes and to run their vehicles and businesses.”
May 10th, 2009