This post at NewMajority.com got me thinking. I’ve always disliked the term “free-market environmentalist.” I’m sure part of that reaction is because the term is often used as a fig-leaf for organizations with agendas that are actually inconsistent with environmental protection. (That’s right PERC, I’m talking to you.)
That’s precisely the problem I have with the phrase. It fetishizes one tool over another for ideological reasons that don’t have a thing to do with protecting the environment. Someone committed first and foremost to environmental protection might be quite open to market-based solutions. In fact, environmentalists have supported any number of market mechanisms (from market- driven air pollution trading programs to tradable fishery quotas). But those aren’t only solutions that environmentalists will support. The first question we ask is: what works best? If it’s a market-based mechanism, great. If it’s technology forcing, good. If it’s that old workhorse, command-and-control, that’s ok too.
Now there may be reasons extrinsic to environmental protection to prefer market-based solutions over others (the preservation of property interests; promoting individual freedom from regulation, etc.) but these aren’t concerns about the environment and a heuristic that lets such reasons trump all others may be a lot of things, but a type of “environmentalism” it isn’t.