I asked Dr. Walter Block for his take on the essay. Below is his response:
I am shocked, amazed and delighted that Mark Buchanan not only channels the single best essay ever written on environmentalism
Rothbard, Murray N. 1982. "Law, Property Rights, and Air Pollution," Cato Journal, Vol. 2, No. 1, Spring; reprinted in Economics and the Environment: A Reconciliation, Walter E. Block , ed., Vancouver: The Fraser Institute, 1990; http://www.mises.org/rothbard/
but actually does so in a manner not totally ignorant of this essay. He does commit a few errors, however. Buchanan states: “Major polluting industries started worrying that they could be sued under existing nuisance laws -- a prospect that could result in chaos if tens of millions of people went after thousands of companies in the courts.”
Murray is quite careful to refute this “chaos” objection. For example, he maintains that no one would have to sue an individual motorist, of which there are indeed “tens of millions,” if not more. Rather, under full free enterprise, all roads and highways would be privately owned, and one would sue them for pollution instead; the point being there would be far fewer private road owners than car drivers.
Also, after a few precedents were recorded, people would adjust, and this spectre of
chaos, millions of people suing each other, would not occur. There is also the phenomenon of “de minimus,” the law does not take into account trifles. No one would be able to sue anyone else for exhaling, for instance.
Walter E. Block, Ph.D.
Harold E. Wirth Eminent Scholar Endowed Chair and Professor of Economics
Joseph A. Butt, S.J. College of Business
Loyola University New Orleans