Free enterprise and pollution

Sometimes a column leaves me positively speechless. This is one of them. It was written by a local developer, Rob Dickson, who went to New York to march against climate change…presumably he walked.

In his article, Dickson calls for “a no-pollution economy.”

He also states that people in business, who claim to support “free enterprise” and “political freedom,” should object to “free” pollution because it:

1) Makes others pay a cost, not of benefit to them.

2) Misallocates resources. Pollution is waste. Waste costs all of us.

3) Is generally the result of corrupting influences at all levels of government.

4) Squashes innovation by mispricing the products and services we buy and sell.

Needless to say, I disagree with Dickson. My responses to each point follow:

1) If carbon is a pollutant then we are all “polluters” by our very existence. Assuming that he is speaking to something beyond carbon emissions (real pollution if you will), we all benefit from the activities that cause pollution: goods produced in factories, food grown on farms, transportation of that food and those products, etc. These goods are taxed and regulated every step of the way. I’m not sure how this would work.

2) Yes, pollution is waste. That is why businesses works relentlessly to reduce waste. UPS drivers, for example, do everything in their power to make only right turns because it saves time and fuel. Compare a modern plastic bottle with one that is 10-20 years old. The reduction in plastic usage is incredible.

3) No. Sorry. Pollution is a reality of human activity. Nothing more, nothing less. Pollution can take many forms and it is often nothing more than dirt and nutrients that have been moved from one place to another associated with human activities.

4) Mispriced according to whom? According to Dickson? According to the marketplace? According to the government? How do we set up a regime that accounts for ALL pollution? Is he saying “cap and trade?” He never states that if that is his belief, perhaps because the European scheme has failed.