Private property plays two opposing roles in stories about the environment. In the story favored by most environmentalists, private property is the bad guy. It balkanizes an interconnected ecosystem into artificial units of individual ownership. Owners of these finite parcels have little incentive to invest in ecosystem resources and every incentive to dump polluting wastes onto other parcels. Only by relocating control over natural resources in some central authority like the federal government, can we make integrated decisions designed to preserve the health of the entire ecosystem. For these traditional environmentalists, private property is the problem; public control is the solution.
Thomas W. Merrill,
Private Property and the Politics of Environmental Protection,
Harv. J. L. & Pub. Pol'y
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