Libertarians are often very hostile to environmental regulation. Why? Reflecting on the argument below should help us understand their grounds and whether the grounds are any good.
1. Pollution and other kinds of environmental externalities impose costs upon others. A polluter forces others to bear the costs of his activities. Pollution tends to violate people’s property rights, as well as certain rights they have over themselves (such as the rights against having their health compromised against their will).
2. Government regulation of environmental issues is USUALLY/OFTEN/SOMETIMES effective, and is USUALLY/OFTEN/SOMETIMES more effective than using courts to defend the rights mentioned in premise 1. Courts are SOMETIMES/OFTEN/USUALLY ineffective in protecting these rights.
3. Therefore, government should have the right to issue environmental regulations in order to protect property rights, rights to life, and rights to health.
I don’t see how a libertarian could deny premise 1. So premise 2 does all the work. Premise 2 is an empirical premise. We can debate which word (“usually”, “often”, or “sometimes”) belongs in each sentence to make premise 2 true. However, unless the libertarian believes we should instead have “never” in the first sentence of premise 2, then it seems the libertarian has a strong case for favoring some government regulation of environmental issues. Why then are some (non-anarchist) libertarians utterly opposed to all government regulation? (Do they really believe courts always work better? Do they believe government regulation is always ineffective, or not worth the cost? Why?)
(EDIT: Corrected a mistake)