We are wholly dependent on the natural environment. Designing policies to protect it and regulate activities that impact it is one of government’s most difficult and important tasks.
It is difficult because the science required to understand how various human activities affect the environment is so complex, because the interpretation of the science is subject to such intense ideological and political manipulation, and because there is such a conflict between environmental regulation and economic productivity.
In the long run sound conservation practices and sound environmental regulation are an absolute requirement for continued economic progress, but environmental regulation, unless brilliantly conceived and managed, can be a significant impediment to the operation of the free market.
As human impact on the environment becomes ever more pervasive and complex increased government regulation is required, but the built in tension between environmental protection regulation and proper functioning of a market economy must be taken into account in designing regulatory policy if economic growth is not to be unnecessarily retarded.