Libertarianism and Pollution

Benjamin Hale and Andrew Light, eds., The Routledge Companion to Environmental Ethics, 2015

34 Pages Posted: 30 May 2014  

Matt Zwolinski

University of San Diego; University of San Diego School of Law

Date Written: May 28, 2014

Abstract

Because of its support for strong rights of private property and relatively unregulated capitalism, libertarianism is often perceived as being fundamentally incompatible with the kinds of policy goals demanded by a thoroughgoing commitment to environmentalism. But, this paper argues, taking property rights seriously means taking pollution seriously. And indeed, given the stringency with which libertarians support the right of private property, it may mean taking the problem of pollution far more seriously than most of us would or should be willing to accept. This paper explores the radical implications of rights-based libertarianism for the problem of pollution, surveys some attempts by Robert Nozick, Murray Rothbard, and Eric Mack to avoid the most implausible of those radical conclusions. It concludes that none of these attempts are entirely successful, but notes that they exhibit a surprising degree of consensus on the ultimate goal: a principle of "live and let live." Future research in this area should be directed toward further developing the theoretical foundation of this goal and its ramifications for various questions of environmental policy.

Keywords: Environmentalism, Pollution, Libertarianism, Nozick, Rothbard, Environmental Ethics, Externalities

Suggested Citation

Zwolinski, Matt, Libertarianism and Pollution (May 28, 2014). Benjamin Hale and Andrew Light, eds., The Routledge Companion to Environmental Ethics, 2015. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2443030

Matt Zwolinski (Contact Author)

University of San Diego ( email )

5998 Alcala Park
San Diego, CA 92110-2492
United States
619-260-4094 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.sandiego.edu/~mzwolinski

University of San Diego School of Law ( email )

5998 Alcala Park
San Diego, CA 92110-2492
United States

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