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Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Species Protection

When I read this article in the New York Times this morning, my first reaction was that this new bill is a good idea, since it gives people a bit more freedom. I also wondered a little bit about the endangered species act, and how it could possibly be justified from an economic freedom or an economic efficiency standpoint.

From the standpoint of economic freedom, it seems to me that the endangered species act is a government failure to act with the intent of preserving individual liberty. The endangered species act has only served to limit individual liberty, often preventing property owners from using their land in the way that they choose. I wonder if there is any way that such an act could be justified from the perspective of economic freedom.

From the standpoint of economic efficiency, it seems to me that the endangered species act is still a government failure. There may be a market failure revealed by the endangerment of species, but the government did not act in a way that would eliminate the market failure. If there truly is a market failure then the government should have identified the source of the failure in the market and used a tax to raise the cost experienced by consumers to the actual cost.

The new bill appears to be a step in the right direction, from either economic perspective discussed. In the case of economic freedom, the new bill is a step toward the removal of an act that would not be supported by a government that aims to preserve freedom. In the case of economic efficiency, the new bill is still a step in the right direction, since a tax would seem to be more effective in preventing a possible market failure. I wonder what value judgments were used to justify the endangered species act, and if those value judgments are such that we could be comfortable with them.

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