Free Enterprise Protects the Environment

Published October 1, 2006

This article is the fifth in a continuing series excerpted from the book Smoke or Steam: A Guide to Environmental, Regulatory and Food Safety Concerns, by Samuel Aldrich, excerpted and abridged by Jay Lehr.

It is good news that many world travelers have learned the truth about market capitalism. Contrary to the slogans of demonstrators throughout the world, the nations that have the best track records on environmental protection and improvement are those with the highest amount of free-market capitalism.

Make no mistake, the anti-capitalism demonstrators often add environmentalism to their claimed objectives solely because it attracts many gullible young persons and appears to legitimize their activities, which often have little or nothing to do with the environment.

Nations with the freest economic systems are the ones whose citizens can afford the luxury of protecting their environments. Conversely, persons living in command-and-control economies barely surviving on life’s necessities of food, clothing, and shelter use their natural resources to the absolute limit. They have no other choice in providing for themselves and their families.

As family incomes rise, the improving quality of life allows people to devote more resources to solving environmental problems. Thus, with expanding societal wealth under free-market economies, environmental degradation is first arrested and then reversed. Society goes through a form of “environmental transition.” After the transition, greater wealth and technology improve environmental quality instead of worsening it.

Real Goals Hidden

Because the goals of the environmental movement are positive and constructive and already have strong support, the movement has earned its right to lead–as long as it relies on scientific accuracy, fairness and balance, and persuading the public through sound information.

Unfortunately, the environmental movement of late has displaced a great deal of expected scientific accuracy with an increasing use of junk science, which we will define as “the art of utilizing selective rather than comprehensive data to prove a theory or hypothesis, in order to obtain either an economic or political advantage.”

Beware the individual, group, or organization that relentlessly attacks the free enterprise system, bashes big business, and bashes corporations. Too often their real agenda is power–power to remake the economic and social systems to suit their own command-and-control goals, not to serve the public good as they so loudly proclaim.

Free enterprise capitalism provides the economic lifeblood for many of the world’s poor. The late senator Paul Tsongas said in his speech at the 1992 Democratic Convention, “You cannot redistribute wealth you never created. You can’t be pro-jobs and anti-business at the same time. You cannot love employment and hate employers.”

Big-Government Failures Ignored

The extremes of big government socialism and communism have been tried and found wanting in many nations, but their principles still dominate the thinking in world environmental conferences and are widely taught in many major U.S. universities.

For three-quarters of a century the Soviet Union was touted as the model of what a planned economy could do for its people. To the embarrassment of many economics professors, it imploded. It could never afford environmental protection or improvement.

Environmentalists who sincerely desire to advance their cause must disassociate themselves from anti-capitalists and destroyers of the social orders of communities, nations, and the world.

Nothing highlights this problem more than the Heidelberg Statement, which was signed in the spring of 1993 by 250 prominent scientists, including 27 Nobel Prize winners. It noted, “We are worried at the emergence of an irrational ideology which is opposed to scientific and industrial progress and impedes economic and social development. The greatest evils which stalk our Earth are ignorance and oppression, not science, technology, and industry. We do forewarn the authorities in charge of our planet’s destiny against decisions which are supported by pseudo-scientific arguments or false and non-relevant data.”

Promoting World Government

Many sincere environmentalists are unaware that the real goals of the World Summits (Rio de Janeiro, Montreal, Kyoto, etc.) are not mainly related to the environment but rather are intended to manufacture global crises in order to promote plans for a New World Order.

The essence of this would be a major loss of national sovereignty to some form of world government–a loss of national sovereignty to planning groups that would control practically all aspects of energy use, technology development, resource management, and the mandatory redistribution of wealth from the have nations to the have-not ones. For all practical purposes, free enterprise and capitalism would disappear.

Jay Lehr, Ph.D. ([email protected]) is science director for The Heartland Institute. Samuel Aldrich is an emeritus professor at the University of Illinois. His groundbreaking book for laymen, Smoke or Steam? A Guide to Environmental, Regulatory, and Food Safety Concerns, is available from The Heartland Institute for $12. The table of contents of the book, containing 211 topics, can be downloaded at