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Puppy Dog

Tragedy in the Commons, enviromentalism, market failures

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I felt I should repost the best segment of my thread on cartels and such because it was at the heart of what I was getting to...

Does a society of individual rights always guarantee making the best choices?

The perfect Tragedy of the Commons example is enviromentalist things. This is not really something you can implement one person at a time. I can choose not to pollute my neighbors water as an individual, but a factory in order to lower the costs of production to the absolute minimum is not going to care about dumping anything into the air, water, or soil. It cant really afford to.

Some consumers will choose "green" products, we already know that is a minority, and statistically they only pay about a 5% premium for something less horrifically damaging, when the costs of production that can be saved by running dirty could be 50% or more.

You could argue that markets will solve everything. If the local Union Carbide gives me cancer, you could argue that nobody should be forced at gunpoint to provide free medical care for me because that is a violation of their individual rights, but I wouldn't have the cancer without Union Carbide, and I was not consulted by or in contract with Union Carbide to work there or accept the risks of their presence. Is it an individual right to pollute? To destroy sustainability? To harm third parties who are neither producer nor consumer taking part in a free market contract between the two of them?

Some things only pollute a more local area, other things can pollute the entire world, literally. Genetically modified pharma crops as an example, plant them in one field, and the pollen contaminates neighboring fields, which then contaminates others, I remember hearing that 60-90% of all corn, soya, and some other crops have been GMO contaminated, it's also the reason for colony collapse disorder/the bees dying out which is having ecological repercussions elsewhere. There are serious health concerns that show up, and you can no longer choose not to eat them as a market choice. You could say choose not to eat corn, but what happens when ALL crops have GMO varieties that contaminate everything? What if you have allergies to other foods? Companies like monsanto have literally bragged that their market model is to poison the world with contaminated crops so that everyone has to pay them IP royalties. Even if you overturned the patent law you still have everyone getting sick. Unlike the examples of oil companies seeking monopolies who have to buy things out, these kind of monopolies are actual real risks because they spread automatically in nature.

Finally after reading more of CAUI I can agree that noncoercive monopolies are not a market failure, but do people believe that market failures are impossible in Objectivism? That no matter what it is, that the free market can and always will provide it better, for cheaper, safer, and healthier, with less ultimate risk than a government doing it? Is there any situation in which regulation is actually appropriate ever to try and prevent predatory abuses or which harm and undermine the society or the survival of the nation in which Objectivism would be implimented? Should it be free market to sell the secrets of the nation to an outside hostile nation that desires to destroy it?

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I felt I should repost the best segment of my thread on cartels and such because it was at the heart of what I was getting to...

Does a society of individual rights always guarantee making the best choices?

Nothing guarantees the best choice. A just society makes the best choices possible.

Bob Kolker

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Does a society of individual rights always guarantee making the best choices?

"best" is a relative term and always requires a scale bad ..... good to place alternatives on. So if you want to know whether a specific way of organizing society yields a better result than any other you first need to specify on what scale.

You could argue that markets will solve everything.

Only human thought can solve anything. Markets are just a way to exchange goods, nothing more nothing less.

If the local Union Carbide gives me cancer, you could argue that nobody should be forced at gunpoint to provide free medical care for me because that is a violation of their individual rights, but I wouldn't have the cancer without Union Carbide, and I was not consulted by or in contract with Union Carbide to work there or accept the risks of their presence. Is it an individual right to pollute? To destroy sustainability? To harm third parties who are neither producer nor consumer taking part in a free market contract between the two of them?

Nobody has any right to pollute anybody else's property. But you do have a right to pollute yours. If Union Carbide pollutes your property and you get cancer you have all right to press charges against the criminals.

Some things only pollute a more local area, other things can pollute the entire world, literally. Genetically modified pharma crops as an example, plant them in one field, and the pollen contaminates neighboring fields, which then contaminates others,

"contamination" is a loaded word here. You could say that planting anything anywhere will "contaminate" the surroundings with pollen. Of course if anybody really releases toxins into the environment they are criminals who need to be brought to justice. Genetically modified plants are no special case.

but do people believe that market failures are impossible in Objectivism?

To "fail" means to fail at something. It implies a purpose that hadn't been fulfilled. So what is your conceived purpose of the market that you think it wouldn't fulfill?

Is there any situation in which regulation is actually appropriate ever to try and prevent predatory abuses or which harm and undermine the society or the survival of the nation in which Objectivism would be implimented?

It is the purpose of government to ensure a free market by enforcing property rights and judical procedures. If you call that "regulation" than yes, all else follows naturally from that and requires no special treatment.

Should it be free market to sell the secrets of the nation to an outside hostile nation that desires to destroy it?

If you know that the other nation plans to attack than you are collaborating with criminals and therefore share the guilt. If you work for the government and receive secret information it is in your contract that you may not sell it. If you acquire secret information by illegal means you already have broken the law.

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If the local Union Carbide gives me cancer,
Is it an individual right to pollute? To destroy sustainability? To harm third parties who are neither producer nor consumer taking part in a free market contract between the two of them?
Should it be free market to sell the secrets of the nation to an outside hostile nation that desires to destroy it?
the pollen contaminates neighboring fields

Is it an individual right to initiate force: no. Is it an individual right to not initiate force: yes.

Is there any situation in which regulation is actually appropriate ever to try and prevent predatory abuses or which harm and undermine the society or the survival of the nation in which Objectivism would be implimented?

Loaded question.

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Nobody has any right to pollute anybody else's property. But you do have a right to pollute yours. If Union Carbide pollutes your property and you get cancer you have all right to press charges against the criminals.

This makes sense to me, I just havent seen anything (yet) in my readings about health, safety and enviromental issues, nor did a few anti-objectivists I talked to so i'm wondering if it's said, if it's implied, or if it's not discussed at all. It seems that everything is implied that it should be totally free market, because if the government regulates what is legal or not in health or safety, isn't that just "having to get permission from those who produce nothing" (health inspectors) and who can further be bribed to selectively enforce or not certain regulations via political pull.

Part of my argument is against what i'd call hit and run capitalism. You start a company, pollute without others knowing, reap the profits, and run before the damage is really known. The right of corporatism is perhaps a separate issue (hiding behind the corporate veil so once the money is passed to you, nobody can seize it not even those youve legitimately destroyed the lives of) but another case of trying to prevent looting, because 40 years after a business otherwise someone could claim they were harmed irrepairably by working at your factory and now you owe them medical bills. The US legal system lets anyone sue anyone else for any alleged infraction and a 'good' lawyer can convict a ham sandwich so it encourages legalized looting.

"contamination" is a loaded word here. You could say that planting anything anywhere will "contaminate" the surroundings with pollen. Of course if anybody really releases toxins into the environment they are criminals who need to be brought to justice. Genetically modified plants are no special case.

I think they are, they are the only contamination which can self propagate. I can dump lead and mercury into my own well, and if I own the entire water table, it wont contaminate your water table. GMO crops WILL contaminate the neighbors field if they have the same species of crop, and those offspring will further contaminate the next farm over. Employees of Monsanto have even been caught driving in the country, throwing handfulls of GMO seeds into the fields of farmers who DIDNT buy their crop, and then being hit with lawsuits saying that the farmer was wrongfully using Monsanto's patented GMO property and now owes them alot of money, after their organic or other field was actually contaminated and rendered unsellable. This is one of my examples of a danger of "unregulated" capitalism. Perhaps just declaring GMO to be a crime is the solution, I dont know, thats part of what i'm opening the debate floor up to.

What I dont like is the implication that then the government should decide what can be sold regardless of the dangers, because it seems to be a slippery slope then to controlling all aspects of life. Should I have the right to buy a nuclear bomb at the corner market if i'm not a felon? If not under what basis would you prevent such free contract from taking place?

To "fail" means to fail at something. It implies a purpose that hadn't been fulfilled. So what is your conceived purpose of the market that you think it wouldn't fulfill?

The concept of market failure is where free and open competition in an open market does not achieve the best solution to the problem (ie - a Paretto efficiency) but where a government theoretically can enforce such an efficiency by reorganizing things. (even if that is a violation of individual rights) By efficiency I don't mean lower prices for consumers at the expense of producers, I mean everything worse for everybody.

From wikipedia, "the actions of agents can have externalities, which are innate to the methods of production, or other conditions important to the market. For example, when a firm is producing steel, it absorbs labor, capital and other inputs, it must pay for these in the appropriate markets, and these costs will be reflected in the market price for steel. If the firm also pollutes the atmosphere when it makes steel, however, and if it is not forced to pay for the use of this resource, then this cost will be borne not by the firm but by society. Hence, the market price for steel will fail to incorporate the full opportunity cost to society of producing. In this case, the market equilibrium in the steel industry will not be optimal. More steel will be produced than would occur were the firm to have to pay for all of its costs of production."

How does one account for externalities, and what i've elsewhere referred to as the third party problem. (where a third party, other than producer and consumer, is affected by the actions and free contract of the first two) Can a government morally or legally levy taxes taking that into account, redistributing part of the profit because the profit doesn't take into account the full costs of production? If Union Carbide is dumping pollutants into the river, and somebody else has to be hired to pay for the cleanup costs, so the government taxes Union Carbide for those costs, is that an abusive government overstepping it's bounds or is that still kosher in an Objectivist society and the role the government is expected to play, that of insuring economic justice? There is a moral case that the producers of wealth get paid and have the right to spend it how they choose. It is wrong to take production for granted or treat the mind as something that will produce, or the men of the mind as a class that can be parasited off and fed off without limit.

The Tragedy in the Commons is when wealth is looted from the commons though because there isn't a law yet preventing or taxing it, such as Coca Cola in india drawing down so much water from their bottling plant that now the farmers have to dig wells over 2 miles deep to even reach water in some place. The cost of those wells isn't being paid by Coca Cola. The danger is that the endless growth of laws like this seems to end up in the same cesspit of having to ask government permission to produce and facing increasing risks of arbitrary decisions by someone who produces nothing. The alleged role of government is to prevent it's citizens from being harmed by predators, whether outside (invasion) or inside (criminals). The best case that Rand makes is that regulation has no place in free economic activity and the exchange of the products of mind as something which should be subjected to the scrutiny of some arbiter deciding harm is caused to another's employment, business or the endless needs of the bottom rung of nonproducers when economics is the only issue.

What if the pollutant Union Carbide was dumping wasnt recognized as a dangerous pollutant at first, so there's no law on the books saying it's illegal, then it's found to be horrificially damaging but only ten years after exposure? I'm not arguing for retroactive law, i'm trying to explain risks i'm observing in laissez faire.

It is the purpose of government to ensure a free market by enforcing property rights and judical procedures. If you call that "regulation" than yes, all else follows naturally from that and requires no special treatment.

Yes I call it regulation because it's about the application of force, if you dont have the right to pollute your neighbor's property that is coercive regulation. Perhaps reasonable coercion that's necessary but coercion nonetheless. It's the argument about what exactly should the state do. Objectivism says get the government the hell out of economic enterprise, which I agree, but to me it begs the question of how else do you restructure government to best allow personal freedom and free contract? The argument is not so much against or about Objectivism as much as what is the proper role of government and how to best do it's job when things allowed or enabled by a totally free society seem to stand in the way. (case in point - an escaped rapist says he's going to kill the lady who prosecuted him, he buys a gun because there is no prohibition for him to do so, and kills the woman. So the response is you have a law preventing a felon from buying a gun, but how do you determine who is a felon since they wont tell you? Do you ask the government permission every time for who can have guns?)

If you know that the other nation plans to attack than you are collaborating with criminals and therefore share the guilt. If you work for the government and receive secret information it is in your contract that you may not sell it. If you acquire secret information by illegal means you already have broken the law.

_I_ know that, that seems totably sensible to me. What if the information isnt acquired by illegal means but rather by accident? You know, you confused whose briefcase is whose at the airport after you both fell and found yourself in the possession of secret industrial knowledge, or important national security information. You are under no contract not to sell the information afterall, and the need for profit in an objectivist society is merciless since if you cant produce there is no guaranteed safety net from the government, so the temptation to sell will be very strong. Maybe you dont even know the information is secret or have no reason to believe it is, and sell it and make a profit. Should the government confiscate your 'wrongful' profit? Doesnt the existance of things youre not allowed to sell by contract create a black market? (elsewhere someone said there would be no black markets under objectivism and implied nothing would be illegal to sell because it's all free contract)

To me there are things which are obviously criminal and things which are not criminal. Yet there are people who would insist that because EvilCorp can produce gasoline at $1/gallon while sickening thousands, and my nondamaging sustainable method produces gasoline at $2/gallon without damaging health, that if I lobby to have laws passed for common health and enviromental protection that I am somehow wrongfully taking the profits of EvilCorp by making their nonsustainably produced gasoline illegal to sell and further harming free choice by forcing people to go with what I just so happen to sell. Depending which Objectivist I ask, i'm told that that is sensible and fine, or would be totally forbidden by Objectivism.

The danger is when one is falsely sold as being the opposite and the public is vulnerable to go along with it politically, such as taking production for granted and implying that businessmen simply loot what they didn't actually produce. (sometimes they do, in grand and horrible fashion, but most business in laissez faire would be legitimate) I just dont see Rand explaining the distinctions anywhere (yet) in my readings and I feel it's a failing. I see some parts of her writings which seem to contradict it, it seems to imply everything for sale, no restrictions from any governmental anything telling you what can or cannot be sold with the sole exceptions of force or fraud. That still leaves alot of room for abuse. I've had discussions with non-Objectivists who have raised these problems with me and I have no answer to give them within an Objectivist context about why it wouldn't happen.

Loaded question.

It may be a loaded question but it's a legitimate concern. :-/ On one hand there are the requirements for national survival and individual survival. (health and such) On the other hand there is the freedom of the economic market. At some point the two will come into conflict. Objectivism seems to always favor the freedom of the market, by what i've read in Ayn Rand's writings so far, and this is where i'm having the most trouble.

Edited by Puppy Dog

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On one hand there are the requirements for national survival and individual survival. (health and such) On the other hand there is the freedom of the economic market. At some point the two will come into conflict

What is "national survival" versus "individual survival?" A nation is only seperable unto the sum of its parts: individuals. Individual survival is necessary for national survival, and individual rights are necessary for individual survival. The conflicts of men's interests do not conflict where men do not seek to violate individual rights.

There's a pretty good section from VOS that expounds on that:

http://arc-tv.com/conflicts-of-mens-interests/

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I think they are, they are the only contamination which can self propagate. I can dump lead and mercury into my own well, and if I own the entire water table, it wont contaminate your water table. GMO crops WILL contaminate the neighbors field if they have the same species of crop, and those offspring will further contaminate the next farm over.

And what difference does that make? The difference in your examples is that in one case I take precautions to keep the pollution contained while in the other I do not. The type of pollutant or the mechanism of distribution are irrelevant.

Employees of Monsanto have even been caught driving in the country, throwing handfulls of GMO seeds into the fields of farmers who DIDNT buy their crop, and then being hit with lawsuits saying that the farmer was wrongfully using Monsanto's patented GMO property and now owes them alot of money, after their organic or other field was actually contaminated and rendered unsellable.

To imply that anybody could reasonably consider their claim justified is insulting. And since in this case obviously other people's property has been violated you are just spouting out rewordings of the same argument without any considerations of our answers. This is the very definition of trolling, so if you keep that up, I will refuse to answer.

Should I have the right to buy a nuclear bomb at the corner market if i'm not a felon? If not under what basis would you prevent such free contract from taking place?

A nuclear bomb is a reasonable threat to other peoples lives since there is no legitimate reason to own one. So government does not need to regulate "don't buy nuclear weapons" but legitimate government will have laws to the effect of "don't threaten other people's lives". In short, there is no need to make special regulations for special cases. It all boils down to the protection of individual rights.

The concept of market failure is where free and open competition in an open market does not achieve the best solution to the problem (ie - a Paretto efficiency)

Again "best" requires a scale and you have not provided one so you did not specify at what you think the market would fail. "Pareto efficiency" is just a rewording, but since the definition of pareto optimal also depends on the use of the word "best" (or the words "better" "worse"), you still need a scale which you haven't provided. Economists regularly fail at rationality because they just assume such an objective and unaltering scale to exist, which is obviously not the case. So their theories are based on a false assumption and therefore just wrong.

How does one account for externalities,

Externalities are actions that affect other people's property. Whether other people's property is affected directly or more indirectly doesn't make a difference and requires no special treatment.

The Tragedy in the Commons is when wealth is looted from the commons though because there isn't a law yet preventing or taxing it, such as Coca Cola in india drawing down so much water from their bottling plant that now the farmers have to dig wells over 2 miles deep to even reach water in some place.

"Commons" are like joint property. There need to be explicit or implicit contracts on how to use them. Your example however is something different since the actions of Coca Cola affect the property of the farmers since they now have less ground water. So the problem is not the use of a "common" resource but the effect it has on private property.

What if the pollutant Union Carbide was dumping wasnt recognized as a dangerous pollutant at first, so there's no law on the books saying it's illegal, then it's found to be horrificially damaging but only ten years after exposure? I'm not arguing for retroactive law, i'm trying to explain risks i'm observing in laissez faire.

If I burn a house down (I have the right to burn down) and only later discover there was a baby still sleeping in it, I have either neglected to take reasonable precautions or it was an accident. What is "reasonable" in this respect depends on the probability of the potential risks and the severity of the outcome. Anything outside what can be prevented by reasonable precautions is part of the natural risk in life we all have to take anyways (e.g. all humans could die due to a meteor strike, that's just a risk we have to take.)

The argument is not so much against or about Objectivism as much as what is the proper role of government and how to best do it's job when things allowed or enabled by a totally free society seem to stand in the way.

The proper role of government is the protection of individual rights. I define a society to be "free" if that is the case, so in my definition of the word a free society can never stand in the way of individual rights. What is your definition of "free"?

(case in point - an escaped rapist says he's going to kill the lady who prosecuted him, he buys a gun because there is no prohibition for him to do so, and kills the woman. So the response is you have a law preventing a felon from buying a gun, but how do you determine who is a felon since they wont tell you? Do you ask the government permission every time for who can have guns?)

If a criminal makes a threat to another person's life it is the job of government to prevent that e.g. by jailing the offender.

_I_ know that, that seems totably sensible to me. What if the information isnt acquired by illegal means but rather by accident? You know, you confused whose briefcase is whose at the airport after you both fell and found yourself in the possession of secret industrial knowledge, or important national security information.

In that case you still have acquired property that isn't yours. What is the difference between having another person's underwear or having secret documents? Just don't use either and give them back on request.

Maybe you dont even know the information is secret or have no reason to believe it is, and sell it and make a profit. Should the government confiscate your 'wrongful' profit?

In that case you did nothing wrong. It is the job of those who want to protect information to secure them properly.

Doesnt the existance of things youre not allowed to sell by contract create a black market? (elsewhere someone said there would be no black markets under objectivism and implied nothing would be illegal to sell because it's all free contract)

Of course there will always be black markets, e.g. for stolen goods.

To me there are things which are obviously criminal and things which are not criminal. Yet there are people who would insist that because EvilCorp can produce gasoline at $1/gallon while sickening thousands, and my nondamaging sustainable method produces gasoline at $2/gallon without damaging health, that if I lobby to have laws passed for common health and enviromental protection that I am somehow wrongfully taking the profits of EvilCorp by making their nonsustainably produced gasoline illegal to sell and further harming free choice by forcing people to go with what I just so happen to sell. Depending which Objectivist I ask, i'm told that that is sensible and fine, or would be totally forbidden by Objectivism.

That is because your example is fictional and the answer depends on someone's understanding of the words you use. If there is a demonstrable causal connection between CheapGasoline Inc.'s production and harm to other people then they are liable to pay restitution. If however the "harm" is only claimed by some marketing execs or lobbyists of HigherProfitMargins Inc. then they are the evildoers.

The danger is when one is falsely sold as being the opposite and the public is vulnerable to go along with it politically, such as taking production for granted and implying that businessmen simply loot what they didn't actually produce. (sometimes they do, in grand and horrible fashion, but most business in laissez faire would be legitimate) I just dont see Rand explaining the distinctions anywhere (yet) in my readings and I feel it's a failing. I see some parts of her writings which seem to contradict it, it seems to imply everything for sale, no restrictions from any governmental anything telling you what can or cannot be sold with the sole exceptions of force or fraud. That still leaves alot of room for abuse. I've had discussions with non-Objectivists who have raised these problems with me and I have no answer to give them within an Objectivist context about why it wouldn't happen.

That is because the distinction is made before goods come into the market in the definition of property. You can buy and sell any legitimate property but not everything that is offered is legitimate property. So government regulates what is property and not what property can be sold or bought.

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An easy way to nullify the tragedy of the commons is with private property.

If it's not private property yet, someone (ideally) can claim it as such. You can't take from or damage someone else's private property, or you're in trouble~

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*** Mod's note: Merged topic "INDIVISUAL RIGHTS & EXTERNALITIES"  - sN ***

I've always in a brief, flippant way described my view on rights as "your right to punch ends where my nose begins".

 

One thing I have trouble wrapping my mind around is externalities where one person's right to do something runs into someone else's right to not have something inflicted on them. Obviously most municipalities will have codes regarding these things but we know that codes and laws are not always moral or right- I'm trying to decide the right of the situation, not the legalities.

 

For the sake of this argument let us assume that the unhappy neighbor has tried to reasonably discuss the issue with their offensive neighbor.

 

A few examples:

Your home is your own. You own it. I live next door in the home I own.

 

1) You choose, on your property which borders mine to have a large, smelly, poorly taken care of compost heap. Aside from an unbearable stench causing me to lose reasonable enjoyment of my own yard it is also drawing vermin.

 

2) Although we own our own spaces they are attached by a shared wall- say a condo or townhouse style. You buy your 14 year old son a drumkit. Which he then practices 4 hours a day at a volume that can't even be ignored with earplugs because it actually causes the whole house to shake.

 

3) You have large, loud parties all night long at least weekly sometimes more often which keep me and my family up all night.

 

In any of these situations the enjoyment of one person regarding their property would is negated by the other person's. They would be unhappy being less loud and smelly on their property and I can have no enjoyment of mine while they remain so.

Edited by softwareNerd
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one person's right to do something runs into someone else's right to not have something inflicted on them.

There is no such thing.

1) You choose, on your property which borders mine to have a large, smelly, poorly taken care of compost heap. Aside from an unbearable stench causing me to lose reasonable enjoyment of my own yard it is also drawing vermin

The odor constitutes aggression onto your private property. Your neighbor is violating your rights by exporting odor-aggression onto your land. He is under the forced obligation to cease the aggression.

2) Although we own our own spaces they are attached by a shared wall- say a condo or townhouse style. You buy your 14 year old son a drumkit. Which he then practices 4 hours a day at a volume that can't even be ignored with earplugs because it actually causes the whole house to shake.

The noise constitutes aggression onto your private property. Your neighbor is violating your rights by exporting noise-aggression onto your apartment. He is under the forced obligation to cease the aggression.

3) You have large, loud parties all night long at least weekly sometimes more often which keep me and my family up all night.

The noise constitutes aggression onto your private property. Your neighbor is violating your rights by exporting noise-aggression into your home. He is under the forced obligation to cease the aggression.

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The noise constitutes aggression onto your private property. Your neighbor is violating your rights by exporting noise-aggression into your home. He is under the forced obligation to cease the aggression.

I see what you are saying but did you look at the links Trebor posted above?

Let's look at this situation, one that comes from my personal experience.

I own a bar, I have been operating it for three years bars are legally allowed to operate until 230am in my town.

My bar is on the ground floor of a residential apartment building.

I have had in the past, new tenants make complaints about the loud music and other sounds normal to a busy, crowded bar.

My assertion of right seems to stem from the fact that they chose to move in to a residence directly above a bar, despite the fact that my business' noise is an aggression onto their private property they have chosen private property knowing the use of the porperty below it.

Would I have less of a right to operate as I do if they lived in the residence previous to my starting the business?

How much is this affected by ownership status? (renting vs condo)

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I see what you are saying but did you look at the links Trebor posted above?

Let's look at this situation, one that comes from my personal experience.

I own a bar, I have been operating it for three years bars are legally allowed to operate until 230am in my town.

My bar is on the ground floor of a residential apartment building.

I have had in the past, new tenants make complaints about the loud music and other sounds normal to a busy, crowded bar.

My assertion of right seems to stem from the fact that they chose to move in to a residence directly above a bar, despite the fact that my business' noise is an aggression onto their private property they have chosen private property knowing the use of the porperty below it.

Would I have less of a right to operate as I do if they lived in the residence previous to my starting the business?

How much is this affected by ownership status? (renting vs condo)

If they knowingly moved into the area after you have already been there fore some time, I would say you are within your rights to export a certain amount of noise onto their property.

I don't know the specific details about it though, but let's use an example from something in the OP. Let's say I buy some land next to a garbage dump and build my house on it. I have no right to then sue the darbage dumb for its smell, as it was there first, so it can be considered to have homesteaded a certain amount of odor onto my property. If it were to put something there, something really smelly, and suddenly it literally becomes unlivable, then maybe I have a claim to make them cease the additional odor. I don't know how that would be measured, but this is what courts are for.

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If an individual moves to live under the flight path of an airport, or near a railroad track, or near a rural chicken farm, etc., they have moved to the nuisance. It would hardly be just were they to then be able to shut down the airport, or stop the trains, or require the owner of the chicken farm to take measures to avoid the possibility of the stench being a nuisance.

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If an individual moves to live under the flight path of an airport, or near a railroad track, or near a rural chicken farm, etc., they have moved to the nuisance. It would hardly be just were they to then be able to shut down the airport, or stop the trains, or require the owner of the chicken farm to take measures to avoid the possibility of the stench being a nuisance.

It is easy to look at negative externalities, which are usually a violation of individual rights. But what about positive externalities? Will the private sector alone provide sufficient education, for example, to maintain the system in a fine condition? Education benefits not only those who study, but society as a whole as well. It is more difficult to deceive an educated person than an uneducated person. So, would supporting education be part of the government's protection against coercion? I don't have a right or wrong answer for this.

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It is easy to look at negative externalities, which are usually a violation of individual rights. But what about positive externalities? Will the private sector alone provide sufficient education, for example, to maintain the system in a fine condition? Education benefits not only those who study, but society as a whole as well. It is more difficult to deceive an educated person than an uneducated person. So, would supporting education be part of the government's protection against coercion? I don't have a right or wrong answer for this.

Well Dmitriy, we oppose all tax-funded education because it involves the initiation of force, but additionally because it is extremely impractical. There aren't any positive externalities to allowing the State to monopolize and control education of the nation's youth. It works exactly the opposite way, instead of instilling “anti-coercive” ideas, so to speak, using the grounds you presented, the socialization of education means the State has a vested interest in using its intellectual bodyguards to instill the appropriate ideas into the minds of the people. One of the crucial mistakes of the Founders of the US were that they left education susceptible to State control.

Under laissez-faire, if people perceive education to be a value, then there will be private investment into that value, and the producers of education would have to provide only the education services that its consumers demand, at affordable prices. Education also encompasses more than just schooling, and the failure of the American public education system is quite apparent to all, even the hardcore socialists in US politics.

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In these cases in a competitive market, prices do not reflect the full costs or benefits of producing or consuming a product or service, producers and consumers may either not bear all of the costs or not reap all of the benefits of the economic activity, and too much or too little of the good will be produced or consumed in terms of overall costs and benefits to society.

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Externalities: why we need to get the superindustrial revolution rolling!

Seriously, we still share air? With the abundance of volatile gases on the Earth, you'd think we'd be able to quite cheaply control our own habitable environments.

A lot of externalities have to do with common or public properties that we still all share because we haven't yet transcended dear old mother earth. We still rely quite heavily on 'free' natural resources. This is of course, absurd, because how hard would it be to construct a high-yield verticle industrial farm? Well, it would be more expensive than the Great Plains... But that's the point really, at some point we are going to have to stop relying on 1)weather 2)natural aquifers 3)natural forests 4)biodiverse ecologies etc. to provide economic gain. We'll have to provide this gain technologically - if we don't, then it really is back to the dark ages like the sustainablists advocate.

Seriously, do you realize how much that smelly compost would be worth to a community in outer space?

For now, externalities are intrinsic to the property purchased. If you buy an apartment above a bar, you're buying noise.

The tricky questions involve things like global warming. If it were true that global industry contributes to not-otherwise-anticipated changes in the climate, do they owe for the losses incurred as compared to how-it-would-have-been?

When you buy a farm, you're buying the 'climate' of that farm. You accept the vagueries of nature as part of the purchase. Can you accept the inevitability of industry? Or do you demand payment, and is that proper? Climate and weather are sort of 'common' properties. I say the policy should be: 'use at your own risk', but then again, I'm not aware of 1% of the world that does not daily breath 'free air'. Tough nut to crack, but I think the superindustrial revolution will necessarily precede the political revolution. Bit of sociological determinism in me (well, if it's not materially possible to eliminate huge common properties like air, then you'll always be haunted by the spectre of collectivism). Nah, seriously though, it's not so hard to settle pollution cases in the courts. Private property being the anchor by which the common property is judged. Nobody owns the wind, but they own the thence and whence - hence no need for collectivism.

Well, too bad more heat means more agricultural output ('disasters' notwithstanding).

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*** Mod's note: Merged topic. - sN ***

My friend writes in an email list I am on:

"So I decided to read a non political/history book for a change so I picked up The Dominant Animal which had been lying around since someone recced it to me lasy year

http://www.amazon.com/Dominant-Animal-Huma...t/dp/1597260967

I'm most of the way through it, but it's in many ways a stunning indictment of capitalism. We literally can't have the growth rates weve been having, nor the currnet rates of consumption for much longer at all. The neg externalities are way higher than I ever thought. The impact of destruction of biodiversity, monoculture farming, and constant releases of poisons and toxins, along with the destruction of our oceans ecosystem and wild fish, pesticide resistant pests and antibiotic resistant bacteria is frightening. I would like one of the libertarians/objectivists on the list to read the book and tell me how the market deals with all these things."

Before reading the book, I realized that I am unfamiliar with the objectivist stance on negative externalities. I know there are a few other free market institutions (CATO I believe is one) that suggest that all of the negative externalities should be priced in to each different type of energy for example, in order to "even the playing field" in terms of pollution. is this a proper function of govt?

Edited by softwareNerd
Merged topics

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I haven't read the book, but I can tell you that Paul Ehrlich has a long history of predicting mankind's impending doom and he has been consistently wrong with his assessments. I would look at anything he has written with a great deal of skepticism.

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I haven't read the book, but I can tell you that Paul Ehrlich has a long history of predicting mankind's impending doom and he has been consistently wrong with his assessments. I would look at anything he has written with a great deal of skepticism.

I have no trouble believing this author is a very biased predictor of impending doom. My question was more one of the proper role of govt in the area of negative externalities with regards to energy. More specifically, how does one account for pollution, carbon emissions etc (given these are things that are provably negative for everyone).

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My question was more one of the proper role of govt in the area of negative externalities with regards to energy. More specifically, how does one account for pollution, carbon emissions etc (given these are things that are provably negative for everyone).

The way to account for negative externalities is to look at what they are offset by, i.e., positive externalities. Compare a world without pollution and its causes to one with pollution and its causes. Can you then honestly say that pollution is "provably negative for everyone"? You can't. In fact that statement is provably false.

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Suggest you use search. There have been a few similar threads. (Also see threads about "Cap and Trade", "Tragedy of Commons" and "Environmentalism").

I have no trouble believing this author is a very biased predictor of impending doom. My question was more one of the proper role of govt in the area of negative externalities with regards to energy. More specifically, how does one account for pollution, carbon emissions etc (given these are things that are provably negative for everyone).
So called "externalities" aren't new. Things that people do often impact others. The way the law responds is to ask what aspects of what the "external" party enjoys are rights and what are not. That is to say, there is no general right to be insulated against every impact from what other people do. Once we understand what general area of rights needs to be protected, the next step to to figure out how to formalize this so that the right is made objective.

Of course that is very vague, and has to be addressed area by area, but philosophically there is no reason not to address "externalities" as such. Arguably (see Hernando de Soto), the success of the West can be credited largely to its ability to solve the "tragedy of the commons" and "negative externalities" in the major area of physical property.

As an analogy to the physical world, asking "what do we do about externalities" is like asking "what should engineers do about friction". In the engineer's world, the answer is that one tries to minimize the impact of friction the best one can, and that one also tries to harness its usefulness where possible. What I see many economists as doing is wringing their hands and saying (analogously) "we can never have motion, because there is no way to get rid of friction", and all the while the world went supersonic!

Edited by softwareNerd

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