Finding Better Words: Markets, Property Rights, and Resources
Washington Journal of Environmental Law and Policy, Vol. 11, 2021
51 Pages Posted: 17 Aug 2020 Last revised: 2 Jun 2021
Date Written: August 12, 2020
To use or conserve environmental and natural resources effectively is complex. Many economists believe that institutional solutions built around markets and property rights can help improve results. This approach addresses what Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto termed the “missing lessons of U.S. history” – institutions whose designers may not have understood the outcomes that would occur, but the results were generally beneficial. However, technical economic analysis generally fails to persuade many at the policy level. Adding a focus on the practicality of solving issues by voluntary action will enrich the policy discussions. To do so requires economists to provide concrete examples of how to resolve environmental issues.
In this Article, we contrast the narratives given to support markets and property rights and state-centered solutions. The analysis suggests how to frame issues to increase opportunities for market and property rights solutions to be more broadly considered. In short, economists must stop talking past the dedicated environmentalists who have learned to communicate effectively with the public but often lack practical tools that economists can provide, Better narratives allow economists to join the public conversation successfully.
Keywords: environmental law, law & economics, economic rhetoric
JEL Classification: K32
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation