Economics and the Environment: A Reconciliation by Walter Block

By Walter Block

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But there is a very real danger of devoting resources to urban transit and being unable to persuade commuters to switch. In such a case, resources will have been wasted because of duplication of transport facilities. Lower fares are unlikely to be adequate in the face of large differentials in the cost of time. It is even possible that improvements in urban transport merely generate increased traffic, offsetting the effects of any shift among modes. Such a change could, incidentally, lead to greater overall consumption of fuel, despite the improvement of fuel-efficiency in terms of passenger miles per gallon.

1, p. 173). This issue is less troublesome when attention is focused on values and tastes that are viewed as artificially contrived. Gamma shares the view of the Science Council that existing tastes reflect not inherent preferences but attitudes created by the media and corporate marketing techniques. One study for the Gamma group argues that marketing practitioners have promoted a consumer society as a result of a failure to recognize resource realities. Some farsighted critics have long recognized that many resources were finite and likely to be exhausted within an uncomfortably short period of time.

The Science Council's diagnosis of the problems of the consumer society suggests proposals to limit the role of advertising. This industry is seen as encouraging "wasteful practices," providing misleading information, and distorting preferences. The "Recommendations" section of the Science Council report suggests that we study advertising to discover how best to regulate it: What is the role of advertising in a saturated market, where total demand is virtually constant, innovation has almost ceased, and the market is dominated by a few large firms?

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