Consequences of Environmental Regulations
Pollution can be defined many ways. The dictionary defines the act of polluting as: “to make unhealthily impure.” But what exactly does the word “unhealthy” imply? Take, for example, a paper mill. Trees are cut down to make paper. In the act of making paper, the mill dumps byproducts into the water of a nearby lake; and spews smoke into the air. The act of cutting down trees is unhealthy to the animals that use the forest as their habitat. Dumping various toxins into the lake makes the lake unhealthy for swimming. Smoke in the air causes local residents to cough. These are some of the unhealthy effects of making paper. However, consider what might happen if the government stepped in to regulate or shut down the plant. Jobs would be lost. Workers might be unable to put food on their tables. Their families might go hungry. This is an example of making “unhealthily impure” what was once relatively pure. However, this time it is the government creating the “pollution” not the paper mill. This is an unnecessarily sentimental argument. But, it proves a point. One man’s pollution is another man’s job.
“A good example of this confusion occurred at public hearings on proposed air quality regulations for the State of Hawaii… The hearings dealt with a proposal to ban the burning of sugarcane in the fields in order to reduce the amount of smoke in the air and so to improve the environment. However, opponents argued that this would also make it uneconomical to grow sugarcane in Hawaii because of the additional processing that would result. One of the workers from the sugarcane fields pointed out that he lived near the fields, and the air he breathed had much more smoke in it that (sic) did the air breathed by the residents of distant Honolulu. But he also noted that if the smoke was banned, his environment would… deteriorate, and he would be much worse off. He would be without a job, and though he might have cleaner air, he would have fewer worldly goods.” (Macaulay, 4)
What causes polltuion? The popular conception is that greed causes pollution. Unfeeling capitalists searching for profits by cutting costs where ever they can. The owner of the paper mill is concerned only with profit and doesn’t bother to clean up the mess his plant creates. What if the government regulated, making further ownership of the plant unprofitable? Should the owner be expected to continue operating the plant out of the goodness of his heart? He would close the plant the second profit turned to loss (again, this is an excessive example, regulation rarely leads ti plant closures; but, it does lower the profits realized by owners of polluting sources – the results are ultimately the same). The act of maximizing profits is what runs our economy and could be looked at as a cause for pollution. But what causes profit? The answer is consumer demand (in this case demand for paper and related...