Private Property Rights, Not Ideologies, Are the Crux. (Controversy)
Shaw, Jane S., Independent Review
Stephen M. Colarelli offers a provocative argument. He claims that conservatives and liberals tend to be true to their principles except when it comes to the environment, at which point they switch sides. With respect to environmental matters, "conservatives are liberal, and liberals are conservative," he says.
The reader soon discovers that Colarelli is not simply drawing a symmetrical picture of the foibles of human nature. His goal is to persuade conservatives to change their positions on environmental issues. "How can conservatives, who value tradition in the social world, be blind to the tradition in the environment?" he asks. "How can they respect the integrity of social ecosystems, yet disrespect the integrity of natural ecosystems?"
The paradox that Colarelli has identified contains a nugget of truth. Its validity depends, however, on a dramatic redefinition of environmental problems and humans' relationship with nature. In addition, Colarelli's essay is flawed by an emphasis on attitudes and ideologies when, in fact, environmental decisions reflect the incentives people face.
Consider the paradox first. Colarelli is right to say that liberals have become conservatives in their desire to keep nature from changing. However, they remain true to their historical positions in their willingness to intervene in people's lives. They do not hesitate to reduce human freedom in the pursuit of a higher goal--in this case, keeping nature "as is."
Liberals have become conservative about nature because they consider the environment "different." They think that it is inviolate and must be protected at all costs (although others generally pay most of the costs). Yes, this "hands-off" policy goes against the grain of a liberal outlook, as Colarelli claims, but he implies that this inconsistency is a heroic one. When it comes to the environment, the rules that apply in society should be …
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Publication information: Article title: Private Property Rights, Not Ideologies, Are the Crux. (Controversy). Contributors: Shaw, Jane S. - Author. Journal title: Independent Review. Volume: 7. Issue: 1 Publication date: Summer 2002. Page number: 109+. © 2009 Independent Institute. COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group.
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