Originally, environmental rules were a good thing. I love the free market, but it doesn’t offer a practical remedy to pollution. I could sue polluters for violating my property rights, but under our legal system, that’s not even close to practical.
So in the ’70s, government passed rules that demanded we stop polluting the air and water. Industry put scrubbers in smokestacks. Towns installed sewage treatment. Now the air is quite clean, and I can swim in the rivers around Manhattan.
But government didn’t stop there. Government never stops. Now that the air is cleaner, government spends even more than it spent to clean the air to subsidize feeble methods of energy production, like windmills and solar panels. Activists want even more spending. A few years back, the Center for American Progress announced they were upset that “Germany, Spain and China Are Seizing the Energy Opportunity … the United States Risks Getting Left Behind.”
In this case, we’re better off “left behind.” After spending billions, those European governments made no breakthroughs, and now they’re cutting back.
The Endangered Species Act was another noble idea. We all want to save polar bears. But now the bureaucrats make it almost impossible for some people to improve their own property.