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The way ahead

The way ahead: Five thinkers' views
Click below for a view on the future of the planet
 Intro Ernst Weizsacker Ernst Weizsaecker Vandana Shiva Vandana Shiva
Bjorn Lomborg Bjorn Lomborg Julian Morris Julian Morris Satish Kumar Satish Kumar

Julian Morris

Julian Morris
“People, property, law, markets, technology”

Julian Morris is director of the pro-free market International Policy Network (IPN) and editor of the book Sustainable Development: Promoting Progress or Perpetuating Poverty?

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Preferred mode of transport:
That depends where I am travelling. I usually walk to work, but I often cycle, drive, take buses and trains and fly in planes. Probably if I was wealthier I would have a big, chauffeur-driven car.

Biggest environmental "vice":
What is an environmental ‘vice’?

Most recent major consumer purchase:
I have been so busy working for the past year that I haven’t bought anything substantial. I do buy lots of small consumer items though, such as food and drink, and I have a penchant for exotic food. It gives me a thrill to buy chillies from Thailand, knowing that they have flown halfway across the world. Isn’t modern living marvellous?

Most important thing about sustainable development:
Ensuring that the two billion people currently mired in poverty are able to escape from this dreadful situation.

Is there a conflict between reducing poverty and protecting the planet?
No. The two worst forms of pollution on Earth occur in the poorest places. Contaminated water kills about two million a year; the fumes from indoor wood and dung fires kills another two million. Chlorinated drinking water and grid electricity would solve these problems, but they are denied to the poorest by overbearing governments.

Poverty and environmental degradation have the same root causes - a lack of appropriately structured and readily enforceable property rights, absence of the rule of law, and excessive government intervention.

When people are able to own and freely exchange property, entrepreneurs discover ways of improving their lives and the lives of others, thereby increasing wealth and health, and improving the environment.

Consumption: how much is too much?
Poor people currently consume too little, but not because the rich consume too much. The market system, based on property rights and the rule of law, encourages efficiency and innovation.

In market economies, resources are used more efficiently and new resources are developed more rapidly. As poor countries improve their protection of property rights and free up markets, consumption will rise. It is both possible and desirable for consumption to increase everywhere, indefinitely.

Technology: threat or saviour?
New technologies tend to be beneficial to humanity. Market systems have various ways of promoting beneficial technologies and limiting harmful technologies, including reputation, contractual liability, and liability to third parties.

Inequality: an inevitable evil?
Equality before the law – procedural fairness - is both desirable and possible. Equality of outcome is not possible and attempting to achieve it by force is not desirable. Forcibly redistributing property causes or perpetuates poverty by undermining the incentives to create wealth - why invest if the fruits of that investment will be stolen?

What should we do?

  • Decentralise resource ownership.
  • Ensure that everyone, everywhere is free to own and transfer property effectively, with minimum bureaucratic intervention and without discrimination.
  • Eliminate government regulations that curb entrepreneurial activity without providing commensurate social benefits.
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