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Why have private property when the air and water is not or cannot be privately owned?

Many of our environmental problems stem from 'the tragedy of the commons.' Air blows and water runs so how can we privatize it? Should we try? How might that work?

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  • Jan 21 2013: Tragedy of the Commons refers to any shared resource which is depleted by individuals that have only self interest motives. So if you understand this concept then one might theorize that private property is the antonym of a common resource. I believe it is safe to say our air and water an important shared resource. So can we privatise it? Should we? Any alternative ideas? I have my own ideas but I would like to hear others.
  • Jan 21 2013: Well the first thing that came to my mind is land purchase in our Canadian National Parks. Parks owns the land however there is a great deal of real estate on the go in some areas. This benefits wildlife preservation, water quality and many other facets. To be sure Real Estate is through the roof in some National Parks
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    Jan 21 2013: in free market theory, the first to arrive has ownership. ownership applies to a specific use of a resource, potentially but not always all uses. in that sense, we are all owners of the atmosphere, and we have breathing rights on it. anyone interfering with this right can be sued, compensation for the damage and immediate cease of the offensive behavior can be demanded. obviously, one needs to prove an actual harm to said rights. specific cases can be tricky, but that's why we have courts and private mediators.
    • Jan 22 2013: Do you you believe we should set in place limits to use of a resource. For example, say you own a herd of elephants in Africa. Should you have the right to slaughter all of them? Do you see the need to limit our freedom to overexploitate finite resources?
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        Jan 22 2013: if you own it, you own it. you can slaughter anything as long as you don't affect other people's property doing so. for example if you hurt the local ecosystem, you are in violation with other owners. however, how stupid one has to be to destroy one's own property?
        • Jan 22 2013: Owners destroy their property all the time for various reasons. In the midwest of the U.S. we experienced drought so severe there wasnt enough pasture and herds were sent to slaughter. In Amazon rain forest soybean farmers clear cut trees to produce a soybean crop. The poor rain forest soil leaches away and the land is worthless. Private property although I understand its merits does not do an effective job of keeping ecosystems alive. Economists forget that the majority of our economy can be given credit to healthy ecosystems and the species that thrive.
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        Jan 22 2013: and all those sound very reasonable to do. underlining that people use their property mostly wisely. they also make mistakes, but it tends to correct itself with time. those that waste their property, will have no property, and out of the game.

        the only exception would be climate altering changes. but as i have said, in free market theory you have no right to alter the atmosphere in such a way that hurt the usage rights of other people. so you can clear rain forest only to a degree it does not hurt the planet considerably. all we need is a functioning legal system. but before anyone calls for government at this point, let me call your attention to the fact that governments do exist today, and they are not handling the situation well at all.
        • Jan 23 2013: I guess your view could make good sense for our environment if it were set in different circumstances. Its not simply the legal system that is lacking. Right now we live in a culture that does not think environmentally (realistic). You see any extractive economic activity is going to cause damage to other landholders. So the means of our modern economy will have far too many liabilities. The effects of mining, industrial farming, industrial fishing, manufacturing all cause extensive damage. If private property owners realized the real damage these activities were doing then they would sue any private enterprise that engaged in said economic activity.
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        Jan 23 2013: if our culture is such that we do not care about the environment, how would anything, including governments change that? in a democracy, governments do what people approve and demand.

        but we do have a problem with the legal system. as of now, you are not in the position to sue big companies for real harms, as they only required to comply with government-set rules, and they are not accountable for any more. you can not sue an open pit mine for ruining the land. they have a permit, you are out of luck.
        • Jan 24 2013: Here's my idea. I agree the justice system needs to change. Another thing that needs to happen is the government should get out of the business of regulating the environment and into simply monitoring it. This way landowners who do not have the money to do an environmental assesment of their soil, air, water can get it done. Any persons polluting will be more easily caught and sued for damages.
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          Jan 24 2013: Unfortunately most democratic governments are highly influenced and undermined by 'big businesses' of all sorts of your so called 'freedom of ownership' ones. If you are still surprised why those environmental standards are that low and therefore easy to be kept by damaging industries, you are either a true 'theorists' of your favored theory, or just not watching carefully where the money and many 'politicians' goes.

          The free market theory keeps denying senseless behavior in ownership, as if wisdom for those people were on sale long enough to have spread sufficient among them. That is a theory only and off the given reality.

          Common properties have always been violated by a view and for just their very profit and if you would look at this world as she is and without using 'pink market theory' goggles, you would find many of your 'honorable owners' doing exactly the opposite of what you expect them to do...

          And as long money can by yet another experts opinion or field study, not even the most perfect legal system imaginable was able to compensate for it. Delaying is strategy here and endless legal proceedings not affordable to anyone, especially to those who do not own much themselves, yet depend on clean and healthy common properties, such as the ecosphere, water and air...

          You yourself know what Einstein is often referred to to have quoted, so you may start including this in your theoretical belief system for a first reality check ...
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    Jan 21 2013: What is the tragedy of the commons'?

    Private property probably exists for several reasons. One might be that people want some control over who enters their life, both because they might not like some people or want to interact with them, and other people may be overtly dangerous to them.
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    Jan 21 2013: It sounds like a question....???
    Water is on way to be "privatized" in some place , soon air will be , no worry ....

    By the way
    Do you think privatization of Air & Water will resolve environmental problems?
    • Jan 21 2013: Yes it is a question. I dont know why I put it in ideas honestly. I have to ask how is water being privatised? Do you know any details? And when I say privatise water I am refering to bodies of water not city water supply. As for your question, I do not have a definite answer in part because I do not know how you could set it up. What I muster is the government essentially owns navigable rivers because they are free for anybody to cruise. So what's the water quality of our rivers and lakes? Well much better since the Clean Water Act but I still wouldn't eat anything out of the big muddy. Now if there is an incentive to improve the water quality for economic gain then a private owner could sue the polluter that dirties his waters. There is not much to gain economically from polluted water. The government has no incentives. But I would like to hear other peoples thoughts because I know that privatising everything isn't an environmental godsend.