Free the Commons! Political Philosophy

Some of you may read my previous post, and think “So what. Democracy is messy. Don’t take away the rights of states or individuals just because you don’t like the divisiveness. Let the sides compete in the political arena, and accept the outcomes.” I agree with you completely.

My goal at Free the Commons! is to offer a new perspective and new solutions to the debates over management of our public lands and the environment, our collective commons. I have worked in politics, and have faith in our democratic institutions and the intelligence of the voters. My opinion though is that we have had the debates on environmental policy. We’ve been through the timber wars, the Sagebrush Rebellion, the Wilderness Act and Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act. Even the new environmental debates, such as global warming, contain all the elements of earlier debates. We’ve been down this road already.

Of course, further political debate may help us clarify or improve existing statutes and regulations, and bring new participants to the debate. Of that I have no doubt. The first line of argument I offer on this blog is that to continue down this path of endless debate is costly. Not only in political capital, in financial capital, and in human capital, but costly in terms of opportunities not pursued.

Look, opportunity costs – the costs of pursuing one path at the expense of another – are costly to society in numerous ways. In politics and public policy, the cost is the political, financial, and human capital that is being expended on environmental debates to which I argue we possess the answers (which is my second line of debate). The paths not pursued are likely far more significant to society’s well-being and long-term survival than entertaining perpetual debate over environmental concerns: I offer space exploration and otherworld colonization as an example of a type of debate that should demand our immediate attention.  

“We can have all of these debates,” I hear some say. But that is not so. Debates over public policy can demand only so much attention, only so much time and money and resources. My goal, again, is to convince you that we have available to us easy policy and political solutions to our environmental problems. I believe that we can end the debate over disposition and protection of the commons. If we can accept some of the solutions I propose, we can leave the environmental debate behind, because the environment will be protected, and move forward with other intellectual and democratic pursuits.  




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