Pollution, Policies & Power – Deontology, What ought to be done?

b1x3jgmf-ps-henry-lim

You learn that pollution generated by the increasing population of particular, large powerful countries is endangering important ecosystems and many species such as wales and penguins in Antarctica. One group is pushing for a fishing free zone but these large powerful countries are planning to block the proposal, which needs unanimous support in an international body governing marine life and resources. Millions of people have signed a petition calling for these particular countries to stop their damaging activities and research in this zone. These countries argue however that the evidence is insufficient to show that such a zone is actually needed. Influential and knowledgeable conservationists, including a large number of marine biologists, argue that we have a responsibility to protect such ecosystems and species diversity. They also argue that such intervention promotes international cooperation and peace: Antarctica, they argue, is a powerful living symbol of international peace and the cooperation of scientists. What ought to be done and why? Considering Deontological ethics.

The identification and measurement of public and private goods, presents challenges for government agencies and private suppliers to overcome the tragedy of the commons and discourage negative externalities. It is imperative that the distinction be made between freedom and statism, in tackling the question of the intervention of an environmental protection policy. To analyse the extent of market failure and consider the costs of not accounting for the non-market private and social costs, to prevent poor investment and policy decisions. While, drawing upon the moral theory of deontology, in order to assess rational human nature and what ought to be done. The fundamental moral principle from this paper is that one should consider unintended consequences in addition to moral law. Fostering autonomy is both an end in public health and a means to promote the principles of reason and environmental justice.

Firstly, to define the terms of reference. Pollution generated by the increasing population is not a sound claim or relationship, it implies that somehow collectively there must be action to reduce the population. “True virtue, according to [Immanuel] Kant, is displayed in a choice made according to pure practical reason.” (Brook et al., 2014, p.147) Therefore, practical reason asserts that an increase in the population would bring more thinkers, scientists, and others interested to develop ecosystems. Negative externalities multiply rapidly in urban, industrialised societies, therefore pollution can never be stopped entirely.

A society must grow in order to innovate sustainable practices. The abstraction called the ‘ecosystem’ barely includes mankind or civilization. While, the oil industry, factories, planes, trains, and automobiles have contributed greatly to human development. Namely, contributing to the supply of products (food, water and timber) and regulating services that impact climate (floods, disease, wastes and water quality). Along with providing cultural services (recreational, aesthetic and spiritual) and supporting services (soil formation and nutrient cycling).

Individuals protect and develop their land, whether to increase yields or land value. Even neighbouring tourism-oriented regions are invested in sustaining and developing their private environmental assets produce positive spill-over effects. (Villanueva et al., 2015, p.2126) Alternatively, there may be less civilization and intervention within the mountain ranges due less incentive from high transport costs for trade far from near cities. While, modest mountain slope agricultural and forest management offset against natural hazards, postponing the onset of an avalanche or mudslide caused by erosion, where valuable resource and scarce agriculture land erosion is proven to slow naturally protecting the alpine habitats of rare species. (Villanueva et al., 2015, p.2125) Evidence, that an increase in population can help the natural environment.

‘The Categorical Imperative’ itself was a principle developed by Immanuel Kant, in his book In Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morality. “[In defending the principle of morality he] presents the elements of this basic principle […] which demand that we universalize our maxims, respect humanity as an end in itself, and conform to the moral principles that we will as rational persons with autonomy.” (Hill, 2005, p.481) Which is contrasted with hypothetical imperatives. “For Kant, needs, desires, happiness, ect. can only provide hypothetical imperatives, and these cannot reliably guide action.” (Brook et al., 2014, p.145) Rules or duties are an effort to put in place as low cost solutions to negative externalities, considering rules make it simpler to exchange rights and obligations. While, desires can cause us to act well at one stage then unjust at another stage.

Basically, the principle that expands upon the golden rule ‘do unto others as you would have them unto to you’. A principle that is a maxim of altruism that is appropriate to anthropology. “This formulation of the Categorical Imperative is phrased in this way: ‘Act only on that maxim through which you can at the same time will that is should become a universal law’.” (Brook et al., 2014, p.146) Firstly, this formulation seeks to do two things – to separate an act from one’s own contingent desires to more coherent reason and to rid any exceptions that one makes for themselves.

As the petition calling for a fishing free zone – can have good intentions but can have bad results – contradicts with vested interests while favouring the majority. It is wrong for an act to be in contradiction, to favour one group at the expense of the other group, since both parties would be impacted. Therefore, the petition alone cannot make an absolute case just from a majority in agreement. A weakness to deontology could cause negative outcomes for third-parties, had one not considered the unintended consequences before acting, yet acted on a good maxim. Such as, ‘to prevent fishing’, this action is good to an extent it protects marine life, however had it became universal law it could either been viewed as good or bad, depending on one’s perspective.

However, in economic fact the unintended consequence is that it would cause a black market, while increasing expenses and crime. “Kant’s answer is that you have a good will if you try to do what’s right, if you try to follow the moral law.” (Hales, 2012, p.43) The statement to ‘try to’ act good, however rests in a state of ignorance. “[While, a] weight of empirical evidence now [shows] that fertilizer [subsidies, taxes or prohibition] are likely to be inefficient, costly, and fiscally unsustainable, […]” (Morris, Kelly & Kopicki, 2007, p.103) Government agencies pay far less attention to information and incentive problems facing pollution reduction policies.

The Endangered Species Act is a case in point. The intention of the act is to enable endangered species to flourish, however the unintended consequence causes many endangered species to be killed off more quickly than otherwise. For instance, a land owner finds an endangered species on their property, now the environmental protection agency as a result of the finding, impose restrictions on the land. Reducing the value of the land. Therefore, land owners would kill any species found on the land that could be on the list. Clearly, that is not the goal of the act. Therefore, people ought to judge a policy by the incentives that the policy will likely give to the people it impacts.

In defence of Kant’s principle of universal law. “’That will is absolutely good which cannot be evil, in other words, whose maxim, if made a universal law, could never contradict itself.’” (Brook et al., 2014, p.148) Rational agents ought to have good will in order to act in non-contradiction within themselves or with one another. “The Categorical Imperative, […] because it demands rational consistency, because it is the expression of a good will, provides clear distinction, does not allow for conflicts of maxims and is able to ensure ethical choice and action.” (Brook et al., 2014, p.148-9) The Categorical Imperative in all its forms is not enough to allow one to act morally, as one would require a concept of good will. Good will is not one who follows rules of right and wrong as such, as there are many legal rules that can be morally wrong in reason. A will is good when pure practical reason is the ground of the action alone. “[Murray] Rothbard showed [only] through preference demonstrated in action that we can gauge what actors really value, and that to try to deduce values from mathematical formulas, without the evidence of action, is a hopeless cause.” (Rothbard in Callahan, 2015, p.251)

The difficultly should not, however excuse people from the task of pursing a universal solution, as deontology states we have a responsibility to protect such ecosystems and species diversity. “More recent studies suggest that public sector [monopolized agricultural] research may be crowding out private [agricultural research and development.” (Hu, Liang, Pray, Huang & Jin, 2011) To clarify, it is wrong to state that the intentions of policy makers are good, therefore there is an assurance that the results will be good.

For public goods as in oceans that have no price signals, private markets overuse the resource, while governments regulate behaviour and impose fees to combat overuse. “[This can be] best understood from the classical parable called the Tragedy of the Commons […] that illustrates why common resources are used more than is desirable from the standpoint of society as a whole.” (Mankiw, 2015, p.223) “According to the Coase theorem, if private parties can bargain over the allocation of resources at no cost, then the private market will always solve the problem of externalities and allocate resources efficiently.” (Mankiw, 2015, p.209-210)

Another formulation of the Categorical Imperative is to “Act in such a way that you always treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never simply as a means, but always at the same time as an end.” (Brook et al., 2014, p.146) Here, it is important to note that it does not mean that one cannot use others as means entirely, but we must at the same time further their own ends. “Treating others in ways that are supportive of their rationally chosen ends can be universalised; it is not self-defeating.” (Brook et al., 2014, p.146)

“The categorical imperative does not assume that everyone has the same values and interests, in fact it demands that we treat others with respect for their own goals […]” (Hales, 2012, p.47). For example, whenever there is an exchange of goods, those who are engaging in it are ex ante better off than they would have been had they not traded. This idea of not confusing this maxim as a universal law of isolation follows onto the next formulation – ‘formula of the realm [or kingdom] of ends’. “It is phrased in this way [highlighting the word ‘merely’]: ‘Act on the maxims of a member who makes universal laws for a merely possible kingdom of ends’.” (Brook et al., 2014, p.147)

““If the people downriver from the factory have a property right in the river, the factory will have to negotiate with them in order to legally discharge waste through their property.” (Callahan, 2015, p.251) Negotiation is the standard procedure used by members of a society to secure the cooperation and consent of others without imposing unwelcome costs on one another. “[Economist] Steven Cheung studied those markets and found that the parties involved had accounted for the externalities quite well, through contracting with each other to raise production to preferable levels.” (Callahan, 2015, p.252) In summary, deontology provides as a suitable method to help one resolve ethical dilemmas as opposite from Utilitarianism – in that clearly defined property rights make negotiations easier by lowering transaction costs, and encourage entrepreneurial incentives to internalise the externality.

 

Reference List

Brook, A., Younis, A. R., Anderson, R., Simkovic, D., Kohler-Ryan, R., Dennis, R., … Lovell-Jones, S. (2014). Introduction to Philosophy and Theology within Catholic Liberal Education. Australia: McGraw Hill.

Callahan, G. 2015 (2002), Economics for Real People. 2nd ed. United States: Ludwig Von Mises.

Hales, S. (2012). This is Philosophy. 1st ed. United Kingdom: John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated.

Hu, R., Liang, Q., Pray, C., Huang, J., & Jin, Y. (2011). Privatization, public R&D policy, and private R&D investment in china’s agriculture. Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, 36(2), 416-432.

Mankiw, G. (2015). Principles of economics, 7th ed. United States: Cengage Learning.

Morris, M., Kelly, V. A., & Kopicki, Bon J. (2007). Fertilizer use in african agriculture: Lessons learned and good practice guidelines. Washington, DC: World Bank. doi:10.1596/978-0-8213-6880-0

Thomas E. H. (2005). Kantian Normative Ethics. David Copp, Editor, The Oxford Handbook of Ethical Theory, OUP, Oxford, 481-504.

Villanueva, A. J., Targetti, S., Schaller, L., Arriaza, M., Kantelhardt, J., Rodriguez-Entrena, M., & Viaggi, D. (2015). Assessing the role of economic actors in the production of private and public goods in three EU agricultural landscapes. Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, 58(12), 2113-2136. doi:10.1080/09640568.2014.1001022

 

Bibliography

Brook, A., Younis, A. R., Anderson, R., Simkovic, D., Kohler-Ryan, R., Dennis, R., … Lovell-Jones, S. (2014). Introduction to Philosophy and Theology within Catholic Liberal Education. Australia: McGraw Hill.

Callahan, G. 2015 (2002). Economics for Real People. 2nd ed. United States: Ludwig Von Mises.

Cheung, S. (1973). The fable of the bees an economic Investigation, Journal of Law and Economics. 16(1). ISSN: 0022-2186. University of Chicago Press.

Frischmann, B.M. & Lemley, M.A. (2007). Spillovers. Columbia Law Review, Columbia University School of Law. 107(1). ISSN: 0010-1958.

Hales, S. (2012). This is Philosophy. 1st ed. United Kingdom: John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated.

Heyne, P., Boettke, P., & Prychitko, D. (2014). The economic way of thinking, 13th international ed. Essex, England: Pearson Education Limited.

Hu, R., Liang, Q., Pray, C., Huang, J., & Jin, Y. (2011). Privatization, public R&D policy, and private R&D investment in china’s agriculture. Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, 36(2), 416-432.

Kuznicki, J. (2014). Socialist calculation debate: In search of a planned society Cato Institute.

Mankiw, G. (2015). Principles of economics, 7th ed. United States: Cengage Learning.

Mises, M. 1949 (2010). Human Action, Scholar’s ed. United States: Yale University Press, Ludwig Von Mises Institute.

Morris, M., Kelly, V. A., & Kopicki, Bon J. (2007). Fertilizer use in african agriculture: Lessons learned and good practice guidelines. Washington, DC: World Bank. doi:10.1596/978-0-8213-6880-0

Paul, R. (2011) Liberty Defined: 50 Essential Issues That Affect Our Freedom. Grand Central Publishing.

Thomas E. H. (2005). Kantian Normative Ethics. David Copp, Editor, The Oxford Handbook of Ethical Theory, OUP, Oxford, 481-504.

Villanueva, A. J., Targetti, S., Schaller, L., Arriaza, M., Kantelhardt, J., Rodriguez-Entrena, M., & Viaggi, D. (2015). Assessing the role of economic actors in the production of private and public goods in three EU agricultural landscapes. Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, 58(12), 2113-2136. doi:10.1080/09640568.2014.1001022

Advertisements