Thursday, May 20, 2010

Who owns the air?

Does the air in your lungs belong to you? How about the air inside your house, or above whatever land you own? Should you be able to do anything you want with that air? Maybe you should, if you keep that air, and you don't get to use any of the air that belongs to the rest of the population. But, in reality, the air is communal property. I use the air today that you used yesterday, or a couple years ago, and vice versa. So how much freedom should I or you have when it comes to putting harmful substances into the air? Who is going to determine how much of each poisonous substance each person is allowed to spew into the air that I will be breathing for the next who knows how many years? Will it be regulated by individuals, local communities, state/regional governments, national governments, or maybe a worldwide environmental governing body?

Should a person be allowed to smoke cigarettes, and how many per day? How many miles should someone be allowed to drive per year, and should the amount and quality of exhaust the vehicle produces be a factor in determining this? How should we decide how much a factory in Mexico is allowed to pollute the air that someone in the US breathes, and vice versa? Maybe I'll do a post about cap and trade and how ridiculous I think it is that corporations would get carbon allowances rather than the allowances going to the individual humans who populate this planet.

Eh, don't worry about it. It's a big planet, and us little humans can't be making that big a difference. If we are really making that much of a difference, and things get bad enough that it starts severely affecting our lives, we can let the free market fix things up for us. When it gets bad enough that people are willing to pay to have breathable air, there will be demand for industrious entrepreneurs to develop more efficient air cleaning equipment. Sure, the poor saps who can't afford to buy air won't live long, but that will cut down on the population and thus help fix the pollution problem. Yeah, let's do that. We wouldn't want to undermine anybody's freedoms just to avoid the planet becoming uninhabitable for the majority of the population. It's always a lot easier to fix things after their broken than to prevent breaking them in the first place, isn't it?

Next up, "Who owns the land?" Whoa, wait a minute, what?


Anonymous said...

I've wondered this question, too. I call it public domain. Same with oil, actually. Just because you drill on deeded land doesn't mean it's YOUR oil...IMO. That oil field may stretch for hundreds of miles. Does that give me the right to use zillions of gallons of gasoline just because I can actually afford it?

Seth J. Moore said...

Thanks for the comment. Now I know that at least one person has read the post three years after posting.

I think it's interesting to question what commodities should be in the public domain and what each individual (not to mention groups) should be able to do with those commodities.