It seems like almost everyone who commented on my piece “The 4 E’s for environmental improvement” took issue with point #2 — that we establish property rights for all resources that are open access. (While I stand by this point, please also take some time to digest the other 3.)

The point I was making was straightforward: Resources for which there is no indentifiable ownership or enforceable rights — whether they be private, governmental, or group — are bound to be abused. This is true whether it be the open ocean, the atmosphere, or vast swaths of tropical rainforest. That this point was contentious sheds more light on the assumptions and biases of those who have a knee-jerk reaction to any mention of property rights than on an objective reading of what I said or the facts.

For those who continue to misread economics and somehow believe economists are all part of a sinister plot to sell off the world’s resources to mad corporations, please take a deep breath and relax.

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Now, for all of those out there who are up to it, here’s my challenge:

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Present a set of policies that you think will lead to greater environmental protection of a. the oceans, b. the atmosphere, and c. rain forests that does not in some way involve assigning them property rights such that the resources can be managed by various actors who can make claims to these resources and limit their use.

I look forward to your responses.