Print it out!

I notice quite frequently the little notice on the bottom of the email of well intentioned individuals reminding me not to waste paper by printing the email. This admonishment, along with countless others coming from those who want to do their part to "Save the Planet" are sadly, in almost every case, taking steps to destroy it. Let me see if I can explain.

In the above example, we are encouraged not to print because it consumes paper, and consuming paper requires the use of trees which must be cut down, thereby stripping the land and destroying the planet. At least that is the logic. Here is the flaw in that logic:

Trees are a crop. Human beings grow them, harvest them, and sell them. There have been times in our history where that crop was harvested from open land not owned by the individuals selling the crop, so the case could be made that the land was being stripped and left barren. That isnt how it works any more. Today the land is owned by individuals who have decided to put that land to work producing trees. It is a business.

As a business, capital is invested to buy land, the tree crop is grown in such a way as to preserve and protect the land so that the capital investment is not lost, and trees are harvested and sold to produce a profit for the owners. The by-product of this business is 1) income for the thousands of people who are involved in the process, and 2) the wood itself, which is used in thousands of ways to make the lives of those who buy it better.

In a free market system people allocate their scarce resources in such a way as to maximize their satisfaction. When people do spend money, they do so because they've decided the the satisfaction they'll receive through that expenditure will be greater than the satisfaction they could have received by spending that money another way.

Markets respond to the above reality by trying to determine a better way to deliver greater satisfaction at lower cost so as to obtain a greater customer base and hence a greater income.

These two factors provide the two sides of the equation that make a free market economy possible. We all live on both sides of this equation. On the one side of the equation we attempt to maximize our income so that we can obtain greater satisfaction in our lives. On the other side we attempt to conserve our expenditures and get the most bang for our buck.

This works!

It produces wonderful products and services in ever greater abundance at ever decreasing costs. As markets solve human problems the world becomes a better place to live. We become healthier, we live longer, and we enjoy our lives more. This is a wonderful thing, a gift from God.

Furthermore, people who have their basic needs met go on to seek improvement in broader areas of their lives, such as in their local environments. Starving people don't care about the environment, they care about eating. Well fed and comfortable people do care about the environment. Inside each of us is a desire for beauty, but we don't seek after that desire until other more basic needs are met (Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs)

Concern for the environment we live in sits at the top of that pyramid. As the free market exchange of free human beings solves the problems of life, more and people move into higher levels of that pyramid.

Freedom leads to prosperity, and prosperity benefits the environment.

The quality of a nation's environment is directly proportional to prosperity of it's citizens. Look at the relative cleanliness of a typical prosperous American City vs a typical city in any poor country. The difference is stark. North Korea is a wasteland, ravaged by communism. South Korea is a prosperous, beautiful country. Look at this image of Haiti vs. the Dominican Republic. On one side there is lush beauty, the other is barren.

Freedom is good for the environment. So is consumption. When we consume the products of our fellow human beings, we are all made better off.

In ignorance, some people, being convinced that a person selling wood is in some way destroying their planet, start trying to manipulate the buyers of that product into consuming less of it. They are trying to prevent others from buying and selling what they want, and add social pressure (and eventually laws) to stop them.

I say ignorance, because the person selling wood is in no way destroying the planet. As a crop those trees would not be there were it not for the wood market. If one human being finds that wood makes his life better, and another can produce an income for himself and others by producing that wood, they are both made better off - at at the same time, as a direct result of their exchange, the land is improved and the crop is increased. The circumstances are improved for the buyer, the seller, the land, and the trees.

So the pressure produced by the ignorant to stop this exchange has a negative effect on every aspect of this reality. The people producing and selling wood see their income reduced, the people using that product to in some way to improve their lives must go without that improvement, the land will no longer be maintained to the degree that it was, and the total number of trees will be reduced. Why take care of the land and plant trees if people aren't buying?

It might seem small, but it isn't. One man's expense is another man's income. Anything that reduces the exchange between them reduces the quality of life for both of them and causes neglect of the tools and resources involved in the process.

Environmentalism doesn't improve the environment as it is currently practiced. Environmentalism is a highjacking of the human desire for a beautiful world and puts that desire to work in the cause of socialism and the accumulation of power in the hands of government. Nothing destroys an environment more thoroughly than excessive government power. Freedom produces prosperity and the forces which result in the improvement of the environment. Powerful governments are by their very nature anti-freedom and consequently they produce poverty and bleak environments.

We all want to live in a beautiful world full of trees, clean air, and clean water. Prosperity produced by the market exchange of free people trying to maximize their quality of life is the most effective way to achieve that end.

So if you find that printing this out in some way improves your life, do it! It will be good for all of us, including the planet.