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Free Market Environmentalism


Prepared By
J. Bishop Grewell
PERC Research Associate

September 1, 2001


In 1991, Terry Anderson and Donald Leal released Free Market Environmentalism. The book’s notion that free markets could protect the environment as well as or better than government if property rights institutions were in place challenged conventional thinking. In the past, environmental policy had always been viewed as an example of market failure. Anderson and Leal claimed that this was not the case and offered examples of alternatives to prove it.

Since the book’s release, it has been used as a curriculum in universities from Stanford to Harvard to Purdue to Tulane. Many professors, however, were cautious in its use because they were not sure how to work free market environmentalism (FME) into the traditional curriculum. And so, with the release of a new edition of Free Market Environmentalism (Palgrave, 2001), PERC has created a syllabus to aid the inclusion of free market environmental ideas in to traditional environmental economics and policy curricula.

The syllabus can be used in two ways: it can be implemented as a course on free market environmentalism or incorporated into a standard environmental economics or environmental policy course to convey aspects of free market methods.

The syllabus is broken down into thirteen blocks. Each block includes a chapter from the new version of Free Market Environmentalism, as well as supplemental readings. These blocks can be taught in order, from one through thirteen, as a thirteen-week course on free market methods. Alternatively, several blocks can be combined into a single lesson if time requires. The blocks are grouped by subject area, allowing for their use as supplemental lessons to traditional environmental economics courses. Some readings are repeated in different blocks because of applicability in different areas. This ensures that teachers utilizing only portions of the syllabus will not miss out on relevant readings.

The syllabus assumes that educators are familiar with the old way of teaching environmental economics and policy and, therefore, does not include readings for such a course. It does, however, recognize that teachers of traditional environmental economics might not be familiar with readings that offer specific criticisms of free market environmentalism. Thus, several such readings are provided in block thirteen.

Many of the supplemental readings can be found here on PERC’s Web site. Download the pdf to view the syllabus.


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