Voluntary Alternatives: Pollution

Pollution seems like an insurmountable problem for a stateless society. After all, without government regulation, who will prevent companies from dumping toxic waste everywhere? This overlooks the fact that a company has a strict liability for damage it causes, even through it’s dumping practices. This liability is something that the company itself, as well as its insurance provider will want to control. And because all property is privately owned, there will always be a damaged party from indiscriminate dumping.

Because pollution is a more widespread form of property damage, a strict liability system will go a long way on its own to prevent indiscriminate dumping. It was, historically, a breach of strict liability that allowed pollution to continue in the first place. Because each company will have to pay the full cost of any damage they may do by polluting, be it in the air, on the surface, or underground, they will tend to be much more careful about the disposal of waste products.

Insurance companies, which are hired to protect a company from high liability costs, will also want to prevent pollution. They will likely insist, as part of any liability coverage contract, on pollution controls appropriate to the business at hand. Even if a company does not purchase liability coverage, the companies which insure the property of those who may be damaged would have a strong incentive to contract with potential polluters to install such controls. Should this not be possible, the insurance company would have a motive to purchase the potentially polluting facilities and sell them to a new owner who won’t pollute.

Even properties that are today unowned can be protected in this way. Oceans will likely be homesteaded by fisheries and shipping companies. Undeveloped wilderness will either be developed, or possibly become the property of groups wishing to preserve them in their natural state. The owners of these properties would have a claim against anyone who polluted them.

Without the state, pollution can easily be prevented by market forces. With strict liability, it’s not in the interest of companies to pollute. Insurance can contractually prevent pollution both to reduce a companies liability, and to protect other clients property, and with virtually all property becoming owned, pollution can’t be done without damaging somebody, who will seek redress.

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