Policy Series

Environmentalists, politicians, and scholars express concern about a "race to the bottom" in environmental policy. Yet economic theory indicates that a race to the bottom in environmental policy is highly unlikely, and there is little evidence that such races have, in fact, occurred.
Brandon Scarborough
Irrespective of the uncertainties surrounding the causes of climate change, the United States is poised to join the rest of the developed world in a fight against rising carbon dioxide levels.
Randy Simmons
The public trust doctrine is a little-known bit of legal history that is now touted as an ancient rule of law that allows governments to control property long presumed to be privately owned.
Malthus will always be associated with the idea of a social and economic trap, in which population grows faster than food production. But Malthus did not believe in a population apocalypse, as many of his followers do today.
SummaryMost environmental statutes allow citizens to sue companies for violating the statutes or their regulations. Most such citizen suits are not filed by individuals, however, but by environmental organizations.
Kendra Okonski
In his latest book, Collapse: How Societies Succeed or Fail, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jared Diamond attempts to explain how a number of small, isolated societies, from Easter Island to Greenland, destroyed their environments and disappeared
Dominic Parker
Land trusts and one of their important tools, conservation easements, are major forces in today's environmental movement. Conservation easements are partial interests in land that prohibit intense development.
David Simpson
What is the best way to preserve species-rich tropical habitats? During the past two decades, international conservation groups have attempted to save habitats by combining conservation with development.
J. Bishop Grewell
Beginning in 1996, the federal government started raising (and in some cases newly instituting) recreation fees on public lands and using them at the sites where they were collected. This Fee Demonstration Program, which is scheduled to end in 2004, has sparked a debate over ethical and practical issues.
With abundant rainfall, the southeastern United States has rarely experienced conflicts over the allocation of water. But that is changing. As population grows, the demand for water grows, and when periodic drought occurs, disputes can result.
This Policy Series challenges a popular romantic myth--the idea that Native Americans had little regard for property rights. The experience of Native American salmon fishing off the northwestern coast of the United States and the southwestern coast of Canada refutes this notion.
Daniel Benjamin
This essay, "Eight Great Myths of Recycling," by Daniel K. Benjamin, exposes the errors and falsehoods underlying the rhetoric. It clarifies the appropriate role of recycling, based on history and market relationships.
Lea-Rachel Kosnik, Roger Meiners
"Restoring Harmony in the Klamath Basin" explains how this conflict developed and offers a solution—markets in water. Written by Roger Meiners and Lea-Rachel Kosnik, this paper persuasively argues that clarification of property rights to water is fundamental to ending the crisis.
J. Bishop Grewell
Agriculture has proven that it can feed the world. Ever-increasing yields and changing demographics have ensured the cultivation of sufficient food; only distribution remains an obstacle.
Andrew Morriss, Bruce Yandle, Lea-Rachel Kosnik
This paper discusses a new form of regulation. Rather than issuing rules, some government agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, have started to file lawsuits.
Author Seth Norton shows that the impacts of rapid population growth are not as severe as most people believe. Even more important, he shows how changes in a country's legal system and economic framework can overcome the problems caused by population growth.
This paper, "Population Growth, Economic Freedom, and the Rule of Law," is the third PERC Policy Series essay honoring the late Julian Simon, a path-breaking economist who revised traditional thinking on issues from population growth to natural resources.
Roger Sedjo
"The nation finds itself struggling with forest management systems that do not work," says Roger Sedjo, a Senior Fellow with the Washington, D.C.-based research organization Resources for the Future. "The future management of the national forests is unlikely to be smooth, because no political consensus exists."
Roger Meiners, Andrew Morriss
Two PERC researchers, reviewing the history of the banned pesticide DDT, have concluded that violation of private property rights lies at the heart of the conflict over DDT.
Indur Goklany
This paper, "Economic Growth and the State of Humanity," by Indur M. Goklany, emulates and builds upon the contributions that Julian Simon made in reporting on the progress of humankind.
Terry Anderson, J. Bishop Grewell
Bringing environmental issues into foreign policy-making and international law endangers trade, national sovereignty, and, ironically, long-term environmental improvement, according to two associates of the Political Economy Research Center (PERC).
Donald Leal
Overfishing in the oceans is a classic example of the "tragedy of the commons"-- overexploitation of an unowned resource. Fishing in U.S. waters is no longer a commons free of fishing restrictions, yet many fisheries still suffer from the tragedy of the commons.
It's time to let federal agencies buy and sell land, says Tim Fitzgerald in a new PERC Policy Series paper. "Federal Land Exchanges: Let's End the Barter" offers a practical way to reform the costly and time-wasting federal land exchange process.
Holly Fretwell
Fees for Recreation? Yes! Says PERC Researcher. The federal government's program to raise entrance and user fees in national parks and forests is an important step in the right direction, says PERC researcher Holly Lippke Fretwell.
Holly Fretwell
A Summary Private land trusts are proliferating around the nation as ways of preserving environmental values. So why not a federal land trust to manage the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in southern Utah?
Jane Shaw
A new paper challenges conventional wisdom about the role of business in environmental issues. Written primarily for business executives, it offers new ideas for addressing environmental challenges while keeping a principled commitment to market competition, consumer choice, and innovation.
Bruce Yandle
"Bootleggers, Baptists, and Global Warming" explains that something similar is happening with the treaty negotiations over climate change. Baptists are the environmental groups, and bootleggers are the companies, trade associations, and nations that are seeking favors through the global warming negotiations.
Roger Meiners, Bruce Yandle
Unless you are well into middle age or were a precocious student, you probably have little memory of the United States without the Environmental Protection Agency and the host of federal statutes it implements.
Michael `t Sas-Rolfes
The tiger, which once ranged throughout Asia, faces extinction in the wild. The only way to save it is to provide incentives that make people who live near tigers want to conserve them, says Michael 't Sas-Rolfes in a new paper, "Who Will Save the Wild Tiger?" published by PERC.
The 1872 Mining Law, which governs the transfer of rights to mine gold, silver, copper, uranium and other hardrock minerals from federal lands, is the subject of continuing and sometimes rancorous controversy.
Donald Leal, Holly Fretwell
Our national parks are in trouble. Their roads, historic buildings, visitor facilities, and water and sewer systems are falling apart.
Once considered America's "crown jewels," our national parks have become tarnished by monetary problems. Campgrounds are closed, buildings are in disrepair, roads are potholed and natural resources are degraded.
Terry Anderson, Peter Hill
Change is in the air. After a century of growing national control, Americans are rethinking the role of the federal government vis-à-vis the states. This reconsideration has led to welfare reform and to a nationwide debate over education. Now it is beginning to focus on environmental policy, too.
Donald Leal
Along the coastal waters of eastern Canada and the United States--in the Grand Banks off Newfoundland, for example, and in Georges Bank off New England--severe overfishing is leading to economic ruin. In spite of years of governmental restrictions on gear, catch, and seasons, fishers are over exploiting the once-productive resource their livelihoods depend on.
Terry Anderson
Over the past three decades, the environmental movement has promoted a view of American Indians as the "original conservationists"--that is, "people so intimately bound to the land that they have left no mark upon it" (White and Cronon 1988, 417).
Jane Shaw, Richard Stroup
Nearly twenty years ago, homeowners around Love Canal, an abandoned waste site in Niagara Falls, New York, found chemicals leaking into their homes. Crude health studies suggested that the chemicals might have caused serious diseases and genetic problems. The State of New York declared a public health emergency. Soon, Love Canal, "toxic waste," and "ticking time bombs" became household words.
Donald Leal, Jane Shaw
Each year, at least fifty national forests managed by the Forest Service lose money on their timber sale programs. To some critics, these programs represent an environmental travesty and a classic example of corporate welfare.
Richard Stroup
It is increasingly clear that Congress will amend the Endangered Species Act. For one thing, property rights groups, who are important constituents of the new Republican Congress, are outraged at the power the Act gives federal agents to control landowners' use of their property. For another, the Act isn't working well to save species.
Terry Anderson, Jane Shaw
The political upheaval that occurred in November 1994 provides an opportunity to establish a new environmental agenda. This must be a positive agenda--one that will protect environmental quality and at the same time restore fiscal responsibility, lift onerous regulation, and promote the fair application of environmental laws.
Jane Shaw
Since the late 1980s, many Americans across the country have found that they cannot farm, ranch, or build homes on portions of their land. Why?
Donald Leal
The Forest Service needs strong incentives to adhere to the bottom line. The right motivation could help create a profitable timber program.
Shawn Regan
PERC's new Policy Perspective explains how the government keeps tribes from developing their natural resources.
Roger Meiners, Andrew Morriss
Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring" was a powerful book that presented an emotional argument against chemical pesticides that had already saved million of lives.
Randal Rucker, Walter Thurman
This policy series on Colony Collapse Disorder, a mysterious phenomenon affecting honey bees, shows how real people resolve environmental problems.
Laura Huggins
The adoption of catch share fisheries system was adopted in a poor nation with a in Namibia's, an underdeveloped country in need of nutrition and commerce, shows that market-based reform is not a Western notion that conflicts with traditional values.
James Salzman
Ecosystem services such as clean water from forests are free, but now their value is being recognized. Entrepreneurs are developing markets for these services and providing incentives for conservation.
Daniel Benjamin
Most claims of environmental good from recycling are myths. Recycling often uses more resources than it saves.
Brandon Scarborough
Water rights have evolved in recent years as parties express desires to sell, lease, or give water for environmental or recreational purposes.
In this policy series, Alison Berry continues her work on the quality of forests that result under different management schemes. She contrasts side-by-side forests in Montana. One is operated by the United States Forest Service under the watchful eye of Congress. The other is run by Indian tribes on reservation lands.
Roger Meiners, Andrew Morriss
This policy series, by two PERC senior fellows and two of their colleagues, is a summary of a larger study analyzing green jobs claims made by various special interest groups. The authors find that the claims are based on myths.
Robert Deacon
Marine life can become an asset to be nourished over time, not consumed in a wasteful race. Deacon draws on a large literature on the subject, but focuses on a novel management experiment in Alaska and one developing off along the California coast.
H. Spencer Banzhaf
This paper summarizes the state of the academic literature on the implications of environmental justice.
Gary Libecap
In the early twentieth century, L.A. purchased water rights by buying up farmland and conveying the water back to L.A. These purchases created a legacy of distrust and suspicion, as people began to view the trades as theft. Gary Libecap takes a second look at the L.A.-Owens Valley transfers.