Private Property and the Politics of Environmental Protection

Merrill, Thomas W.

Private property creates wealth, capitalizes environmental costs and benefits into property values, and makes owners accountable for the environmental harms they cause. As such, private property creates the conditions for its effective regulation. Karl Marx might say that this is evidence of the cultural contradictions of private property; it is not. There is no contradiction -- only the need for a delicate balance. White private property must be sufficiently free of government regulation and taxation in order to represent a major share of household wealth, it cannot be overprotected to the point that government regulation is thwarted. Exactly where to strike the balance will always be controversial. The fact that some kind of balance is necessary in order to achieve effective environmental protection should not be.


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Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy

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Harvard Society for Law and Public Policy, Inc.
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November 11, 2015