Mandates or Markets for Environmental Policy?


Publish Date:
February 5, 2023
Palo Alto Online
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When someone in the audience asked about Stanford’s Natural Capital Project, which aims to put a price on nature so that it can be objectively valued in transactions, Stanford law professor Buzz Thompson was not very enthusiastic. He replied that, in his experience, pricing that relies on voluntary markets just doesn’t scale. “Those markets are anemic without a big government assist,” noting that most people don’t want to pay if everyone else isn’t paying.

Many speakers, including Victor and Thompson, spoke out strongly against these restricted markets. Open markets are more efficient. There is value to letting environmentalists participate in auctions and there are costs in limiting trade to specific countries. Thompson said he worries much more about market restrictions like this than he does about the free-rider problem.

As Thompson summarized it, “Government has its fingerprints all over” successful environmental markets.

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