Libertarian environmentalism: Who knew it worked so well
By Timothy Tarkelly
Ever since the initial rise of the environmental movement, the suggested solutions have been more or less the same. The majority of environmental advocates seem to stick to the idea that carbon emissions need to be reduced. Of course, the opposition will say that the regulations would be detrimentally expensive to the industrial sector of the American economy. Both of these arguments are true.
Although it is typically the case, I am going to try and avoid labeling these sides as Democrat, or Republican. What I can do is offer a list of initiatives that can be supported by a Libertarian government that will maximize personal liberty, minimize government control, and still benefit the environment.
The popular assumption is that Libertarian politics do not mesh with environmental responsibility. Before I begin a list of liberty-friendly ideas, I would like to point out that the basis of Libertarian philosophy is not that people should be able to whatever they want. The maxim is, they should be able to do what they want, as long as it doesn't affect another person's ability to do the same. The environment is where we live. It is not the personal domain of another person. You would be hard pressed to find a Libertarian who would claim that the malicious improper disposal of toxic materials, or the violent extinction of endangered species are a good thing.
While carbon emissions are on the forefront of the environmental discussion, there are other pressing issues. One of the many threats to our ecological stability is paper waste. Not only is there a solution that would save the taxpayer's money and decrease the government's responsibility over our daily lives, but it would radically improve our environmental conditions.
There is a government agency that generates a lot of paper waste. This agency, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), commands that all of its citizens that earn an income submit information in the form of receipts, bills, invoices, and various other forms of paper work. Some people can submit this information online. The problem is, not everyone has internet access, and even if it was submitted online, it doesn't prevent the over-piling of unnecessary paperwork, not to mention the inevitable printing of the tax return forms. By eliminating the IRS, the amount of tax information being submitted on paper would be reduced to zero. The amount of money being spent on this antiquated system of gathering taxes would also be reduced to zero.
Aside from paper waste, another issue is the preservation of wildlife. Some people are under the impression that the government is the only organization that operates in this field. There are a number of private entities protect land for hunting, fishing, and preservation. What is impressive is that these entities consistently do a better job. Private land is taken better care of. It is simple. Bureaucracy is the enemy to progress. When the fate of anything, in this case land, is decided by people who have a personal interest, the results will always be more effective. This logic tells us that to trust our precious ecological treasures with the government, we are handing it over to a life of existing on papers that will be passed from desk to desk, talked about at election season, and deposited into a paper shredder.
Addressing to the big ticket item, carbon emissions, it doesn't seem that there has to be the strict government regulation to reduce them. The problem is, people are targeting the wrong things. The fact is, some people need powerful engines that sometimes produce higher emissions. In rural communities farmers need trucks, this is no secret. What people don't think about is, so do a lot of other people. In a place where a lot of driving takes place on dirt roads, people need vehicles that can maneuver these road in inclement weather situations. These communities also require an ample police force. In bigger cities, squad cars have the capability to chase down an assailant at dangerous speeds. In southeast Kansas, Sheriff Departments use pickup trucks. This is a community in which assailants might take unpaved roads, or need to be pursued through fields. To reduce the production of these vehicles is going to make them more expensive, which is going to put a drain on the law enforcement agencies in communities like this. Of course, this means that taxes in the area will have to go up.
Instead of punishing the people that drive these vehicles, we can reward those who don't. Sales tax on four-cylinder vehicles could be eliminated. We could offer tax breaks to insurance companies who raise benefits for people that drive hybrids. The same breaks could be given to car dealerships who offer higher trade-in values for people who are offering to give up their V8 for a V6, or a V6 for a four-cylinder. There are number of options that will save the American people money, will ensure the auto industry its place, while still allowing for the public to make a shift of to a more environmentally conscious approach to transportation.
What the government tends to forget is that people are smart. Regardless of the current status of environmental legislation, the American people are already aware of the threats posed to the world around us. Hybrid cars are already popular. Pollution is already recognized as a bad thing. However, there are people who think we need reminded. The approach they take is always the same. They say we need to reduce carbon emissions. It is a shame that they are missing out on so many other opportunities.
Timothy Tarkelly is a senior at Fort Hays State University. This is his first contribution to Enter Stage Right.