A discussion that came out of the topic of the recent West Virginia chemical spill brought up the EPA and Capitalism. I think that the left has an extremely warped view of what capitalism is, and probably a way too large chunk of people on the right have never really thought about it and can’t properly describe it, either.
Yes, it’s a horse I tend to beat a lot, and I’ll probably beat it until after it’s dead. If we ever get that far.
What people don’t get is that “Capitalism” is a term used to describe a free market (I think Marx actually coined it — or if not, he was one of the first to use it). It’s not really a designed system like state-run economies. It’s an economy run by people working it out among themselves. It’s a description of something that occurs in nature. More of a label, really, than a description. But any attempt to define this economic process which falls naturally out of human nature either describes it well, or it doesn’t. It doesn’t change what is.
In contrast, there are state-run economies. In theory, there are no “poor” in the state-run imaginary utopian economic systems (invariably based on some flavor of Marxism). In theory. But that’s never the case. Capitalists don’t claim that the free market system will end poverty. It does, however, provide pathways out of it. And in such an economy, everybody gets richer over time. Which is why the statists had to invent the GINI (envy) index. In a free market economy, there’s a rising tide. In a centrally run economy, the tide is constantly going out.
Now, I suppose there are a few people that believe there should be no laws that regulate behavior in this this type of economy. The relative anarchists. Those people are few and far between, even in the circles most of us here run in. The kinds of regulation that are needed are laws against fraud, coersion, theft, and property damages. Our watershed (and air, and land) are rightly a public good because it’s naturally occurring, and there’s no way to separate what you did to the water on your land from the water that other people eventually drink, and we all need it. It affects everything. So yes, we need laws that address this and an enforcement mechanism. I haven’t run into anyone in our group or at any Tea Party type gathering that believes otherwise.
A proper free market economy needs this kind of regulation. And regulations and penalties should be proportional to the potential damage. So something like this would rank high on the list, whereas forbidding a farmer to use a portion of his land because a large puddle occasionally develops in a depression on his land and the EPA comes in and declares it a “wetland” … well that’s clearly an overstep, and would never pass a vote of the people or their representatives.
I actually don’t have a problem with having agencies such as an EPA — however, they should exist only to oversee and help enforce laws duly passed by Congress and signed by the President — they should have no authority to effectively make law themselves. This is where we’ve gone wrong with these agencies.