Economics and the Environment: Public and Private Choice

Jul 22, 2004Jul 23, 2004


Dr. Bruce Yandle
Interim Dean College of Business and Behavioral Science
Clemson University 

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As environmental cleanliness becomes important to more and more people, scholars and policymakers are coming to recognize that there are problems with the way environmental quality is protected today. In some cases, people have no incentive to improve their surroundings, and in other cases they are punished for it. Over the last ten years, however, a new way of thinking has emerged that calls for the use of "market mechanisms"-such as information feedback and decentralization-to correct some of these incentive problems and give people the power to improve their environment.

When most people think of economics and environmental stewardship, they don't see an immediate connection. Economics has a reputation for focusing on "efficiency" while our appreciation of nature seems to loom above such concerns. Economics, however, is not about number crunching- it is the study of human choice, and by learning to look at environmental problems through an economic lense, we can explore new ways of giving people access to the environmental quality they deserve.

To explore whether these new decentralized approaches might work, and ask what prospects they have for the future of the environment, the Mercatus Center has designed a convenient two-session course that will allow Capitol Hill policymakers to explore how market incentives might improve environmental quality. This program will address such topics as:

• Can decentralized environmental approaches better accommodate the diverse environmental and other values of our citizenry? How can we guarantee positive results?
• How does the current method of environmental regulation punish or encourage those who wish to improve environmental quality?
• Has environmental quality improved in recent years or gotten worse? Why?

Participants will leave with a greater understanding of the law and economics of environmental policy and will be in a better position to evaluate public policy solutions to environmental problems.