Environmental Protection and Economic Well-Being: The Economic Pursuit of Quality

By Thomas Michael Power | Go to book overview

Preface to the New Edition

This book is an extensively rewritten version of a book originally published by M. E. Sharpe in 1988 under the title The Economic Pursuit of Quality. The revisions and expansions have sought to bring the data used and the literature cited up to date and to correct any deviations between reality as it has actually unfolded and assumptions about the near future made in 1987 when the original book was being written. For better or worse, in the author's not always humble judgment, the basic analysis and arguments of the book have not only stood the test of time but become even more important to an informed public economic dialogue.

The title of the book has been changed from that used in the 1988 version. The Economic Pursuit of Quality, which playfully contrasted two concepts most people do not usually associate with one another, was not very descriptive of the subject matter of the book. Some people, looking just at the title, thought that the book dealt with quality control or quality management. The focus on environmental quality was hidden. The new title -- Environmental Protection and Economic Well-Being: The Economic Pursuit Quality -- keeps the play on words in the subtitle but attempts to make clear that the focus of the book is the role of environmental quality in local economic development and the determination of local economic well-being.

As warned in the original preface, which is reprinted below, professional economists are likely to shake their heads at this book and insist that there is "nothing new" here. This book does not make any attempt to contribute to the economic literature that is developed in academic journals and monographs. Rather, it seeks to draw from that literature to critique a pervasive "folk economics" that tends to dominate discussions of local economic well-being. As the development of the "wise-use" and "militia" movements in the early 1990s dramatically demonstrates, a widely held and emotionally powerful set of economic arguments is regularly deployed in political discussions in our rural areas. Environmental regulation and efforts to protect natural landscapes are seen as destructive and illegitimate government interventions into people's lives and a "free-enterprise" economy. With anger and the threat of violence, it is asserted that the government and environmentalists are purposely impoverishing our rural areas by effectively confiscating private property and inhibiting private economic activity.

This book seeks to answer such charges by looking closely at the role that

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