Government is a Terrible Arbiter

This article highlights the ineptitude of government arbitration.

Dirty coal power plants have significantly affected air quality on a Navajo Indian Reservation near the junction of Utah, Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico. And now another plant is going to be built, this one being much closer to the Reservation.

On the one hand, we need more energy.  There is a demand for cost-effective electricity.  Shouldn’t a business with money in hand and a demand for some service be permitted to meet that service?

On the other hand, air quality, in the eyes of some very close to the situation, is unacceptably bad and not getting better, especially with another power plant.

What is the government solution to arbitration between these two parties?  Basically, it boils down to a political tug-of-war where one party wins and the other loses, based on a variety of political factors: money, connections, pressure from interest groups, public opinion, etc.

What is the market solution?  Arbitration could certainly be a market function, and would have to be if the environment was owned by private individuals instead of an entity like the government.  Certainly, there would be conflicts.  How would they be dealt with?

Either party would work with a mediator.  Some sort of judge-type figure, one mutually agreed upon that could mediate between the two parties.  Each side may want to hire some sort of spokesman or lawyer to represent their views and perspectives.  And then the two sides work out a mutually-agreeable deal.

This is largely what happened in the days where common law ruled environmental policy (before the EPA).  If a landowner was concerned about pollution, he could ask for remuneration costs for cleaning up the mess.  Or he could ask for a change in practice.  Or he could ask the business to leave.  Either would be a possibility.  But in each case, the landowner (recipient of the polluted resource) and the polluting party would find some sort of agreement, one that would be most beneficial to both parties.

The way it works now, the polluting party just needs the right connections to the EPA to get a permit, and everything is okee-dokee with the only groups that supposedly matter: the polluting party and the government manager.  In reality, there are many other individuals and groups affected by the pollution (as those who would arbitrate in a common law system, or the above-mentioned Navajos), but as the system is set up now, their say is largely muted, and certainly under-represented where it really matters.

Until the system is changed to what it should be, so that the “little guy” is properly represented as many in the left claim they want, these failures of government arbitration will continue.  Man vs. state.  Who wins?

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1 Comment

Filed under Libertarian, politics, role of government

One response to “Government is a Terrible Arbiter

  1. ed42

    Good words.

    PS. Drop the “a” and “Arbiter” in the title. 😎

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