We are neither left wing nor right wing. Our fundamental concern is with process. We rarely argue for particular ends, because the world is too complex to know what they should be. Rather, we argue for the means – the rule of law, markets, the ballot box – to hold decision-makers accountable for the consequences of their actions.
We apply sound scientific and economic analysis to environmental challenges.
We promote “bottom-up” environmentalism, and champion the use of property rights and decentralized decision making to empower individuals and communities to protect the environment. We believe in the good judgement and incentives of ordinary people, and we work to put power and information in the hands of those most affected by decisions.
We believe that environmental protection and economic progress go hand in hand, and that the interests of one need not be achieved at the expense of the other. Furthermore, we believe that the economy and the environment require many of the same conditions – such as diversity and feedback – to thrive.
The fine print
We promote the rule of law, the right to know, accountability through liability, cost and risk internalization, economic efficiency, property rights (private or communal), markets, competition, and consumer choice.
The following principles and priorities have evolved from our 30-plus years of analysis of the root causes of environmental destruction and the elements of a sustainable society. (Click on the links to learn about how we have put our principles into practice.)
• We strive to eliminate tragedies of the commons1 by advocating property rights where resources can be exclusive, divisible, and alienable. In these situations, we believe resources are most sustainably managed when users themselves own and manage them.
• We generally oppose expropriation, which often results in environmental harm. We believe that voluntary agreements more fully internalize costs, protect the environment, and ensure economic efficiency.
• We oppose subsidies to resource use. Resource subsidies encourage waste, often directly promote environmental harm, and, as a tool for delivering political favours to select constituencies, promote the abuse of power. Where society favours subsidies to ensure social equity, we favour subsidizing disadvantaged people with direct payments, untied to their level of consumption, rather than providing subsidies that lower the apparent cost of resources.
1 The tragedy of the commons, popularized by Garrett Hardin’s essay in 1968, explains individuals’ incentives to exploit common resources for personal gain and the exhaustion of the resources in the process. “Ruin is the destination toward which all men rush, each pursuing his own best interest in a society that believes in the freedom of the commons. Freedom in the commons brings ruin to all.” (Return)
2 “Moral hazard” refers to people’s increased incentives to take risks when insured. “Moral hazard” exists when institutions and incentives induce a person to abandon moral behaviour: If politicians and civil servants can award contracts for multi-million dollar public works projects without public oversight or legal accountability, they can be easily induced to award contracts to the firms that pay them bribes. Such circumstances are hazardous to their morals. (Return)