The 10 principles that guide us
The following principles have evolved from our 20-year-long analysis of the root causes of environmental destruction and of the elements of a sustainable society:
- We work for environmental sustainability by promoting property rights (private or communal), markets, the rule of law, the right to know, accountability through liability, cost and risk internalization, economic efficiency, competition, consumer choice, and an informed public.
- We strive to eliminate tragedies of the commons by advocating property rights where resources can be exclusive, divisible, and alienable. In these situations, EPRF believes resources are most sustainably managed by the users of the resources themselves. EPRF advocates property rights:
- to establish and preserve rights and responsibilities;
- to account fully for social and environmental costs based on the values assigned by the rights holders; and
- to internalize risks and costs (and to eliminate moral hazards) in decision making.
- We favour court actions based on the common law of nuisance, trespass, and riparian rights to empower individuals to protect themselves from environmental harm. We do not believe that governments should have the discretion to negotiate with polluters, or with other parties, to override traditional common law protections.
- We generally oppose expropriation, which often results in environmental harm. We believe that voluntary agreements more fully internalize costs, protect the environment, and ensure economic efficiency.
- We argue for the break up of unnatural monopolies, created by political or regulatory decree. Where natural monopolies exist, we advocate regulation that is mandated to protect the interests of consumers.
- Where property rights cannot easily or affordably be assigned or enforced, we strive to eliminate tragic commons through statutory law and regulation. Although rigorous regulation is often required, regulatory authority must seek to avoid creating barriers to entry, stifling innovation, interrupting the flow of information, and forcing regulated parties to act against their best judgement.
- We work to ensure the integrity of regulatory systems and the strict enforcement of laws that penalize unauthorized pollution. To eliminate biases and conflicts of interest, and to ensure that public and private sector polluters are treated equally, we advocate independent regulators, who are subject to due process and judicial review, and regulatory processes that require full disclosure of information.
- We work to establish decentralized decision-making processes and to devolve decision making to the lowest practicable level – that which is closest to the individual.
- We oppose subsidies to resource use. Where society favours subsidies to ensure social equity, we favour subsidizing resource users with direct payments, untied to the level of consumption, rather than subsidies that lower the apparent cost of the resource.
- We oppose the socialization of private sector costs and risks through government subsidies and indemnities to the corporate sector. For example, while we approve of private insurance as a way to internalize risks and costs, we oppose government indemnities to resource or financial sectors, particularly if those indemnities protect risk takers and polluters from the risks and costs of their activities.
1 The tragedy of the commons, popularized by Garrett Hardin's essay in 1968, explains individuals' incentives to exploit common resources for personal gain and the exhaustion of the resources in the process. "Ruin is the destination toward which all men rush, each pursuing his own best interest in a society that believes in the freedom of the commons. Freedom in the commons brings ruin to all."
2 "Moral hazard" refers to people's increased incentives to take risks when insured.