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Media Hype and Environmental Myths

As environmental hysteria grows, and United Nations types call for draconian and "radical change[s] in the conduct of world policy and the world economy" (Time, 12/18/89), we should expect to see collectivist prescriptions cloud the truth.

One such cloud concerns the destruction of Brazilian rain forests. For years this genuine environmental disaster has been used as an example of the failure of Western values and free markets. Time magazine predictably declared in light of such concerns that "laissez-faire, free-market rules that allowed the industrial world to prosper must now be suspended" (12/18/89).

However, most environmental disasters can be laid at the feet of governments who fail to defend property rights and encourage collectivized ownership of land, forests, and wildlife, thus inviting environmental exploitation.

The Brazilian government is a case in point. The rain forests would not be facing destruction if it were not for that government's intervention in the marketplace. The Economist (3/18/89) reports that the Brazilian government actually subsidizes the destruction of these forests by regulations and tax policies aimed to benefit cattle ranchers.

Without such intervention, the forests would be protectively cultivated for their fruit, rubber, and timber, which, in some cases, are three times more profitable than cattle ranching. A realistic environmentalism would simply repeal such distorting policies, but mystical environmentalists are after something else.

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