Free market principles can help the environment, according to think tank representative


Fabian Fernandez

Laura Huggins, outreach director of the Property and Environment Research Center, talks about free market principles and the environment at the LBJ School of Public Affairs on Tuesday evening 

Wynne Davis

Marketing principles are more likely to help fix problems in the environment than scare tactics used in the past are, according to Laura Huggins, outreach director of the Property and Environment Research Center think tank.

Huggins gave a talk, “Escaping 44 years of Gloom and Doom on Earth Day: Free Market Solutions for the Environment,” on Tuesday at the LBJ School of Public Affairs. Huggins said people often misconceive free market environmental practices by thinking those involved in the process would turn national parks into popular exhibits, such as Walt Disney World. She said government regulations have not had the best effects on the issues at hand, like endangered species.

“What happened is that, while I’m sure the politicians had good intentions, species became a liability to lots of property owners,” Huggins said.

According to Huggins, regulations regarding endangered species made owners of inhabited areas more likely to remove the species for fear their land would become worthless if the government took action. Changing how these owners react to such instances is where free market principles have succeeded, Huggins said.

“We’d like to look at this and see how we can turn this around,” Huggins said. “How we can create positive incentives for the landowner.”

According to Huggins, land is not the only place where issues exist. Huggins said when governments tried to regulate fishing in certain bodies of water, the markets were under more pressure. But the fishing communities experienced more success after building a catch system, according to Huggins.

Darcia Datshkovsky, public affairs graduate student, said she has experienced working with fisheries like those Huggins talked about, and the projects need to have financing in order to be successful.

“For any solution, you need to be a realist about it,” Datshkovsky  said. “You can’t just be idealistic and think that we all just want to [fix] climate change. The only way to really do it is if we can actually show a way that can work and finance itself.”

Property rights also present an issue when trying to fix environmental situations, Huggins said.

Eugene Gholz, public affairs associate professor, said political support from individuals who want the property rights factors heavily into getting people to sign on to projects. 

“Somebody else has to pay to create the property rights, so you give the initial allocation of the property right to the polluters,” Gholz said. “But, once it’s a transferable quota, then other people can buy and sell.”