Property Rights in the Defence of Nature: Review

CEI Update
CEI Vol.8 number 10
October 10, 1995

NB:The conversion of this document to a digital format may have introduced errors. To see the  document  in its original form, click here. 

Libertarians have railed against entrusting government with the responsibility for environmental protection for years. As the failures of political environmental management have become clear, environmentalists have begun moving toward this view, however reluctantly. As this has happened in the United States, so too it has occurred abroad.
From our neighbor to the North comes the latest conversion to property-based conservation in the form of Property Rights in the Defence of Nature by Elizabeth Brubaker, executive, director of Environment Probe, one of Canada’s foremost environmental organizations. Her thesis is familiar: Property riglits can provide for stronger and fairer environmental protection than government regulation. The common law tradition, Brubaker argues, provides a greater hope of protecting persons and their properties from environmental harm than bureaucratic fiat. Yet here is the case presented out of pure environmentalist conviction, not free market ideology — and the case is quite powerful. Moreover, Brubaker’s focus on the use (and neglect) of property rights in Canada provides a welcome complement to the research on the American and British experiences.
Clear, concise, and complete with appendices of legal cases (appropriately titled “Wisdom of the Ages”), Brubaker’s work is a highly valuable addition to the free market environmental literature. One eagerly awaits the publication of such sensible material by Brubaker’s American counterparts.
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