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Is it correct for government to shut down "dirty" coal plants? Since mercury is a known human health hazard, and because there are many other forms of energy production, does such a shutdown fall under the government protecting individuals from physical harm rule? (one of the few proper functions of government)

asked Aug 23 '12 at 18:23

orb85750's gravatar image


In principle, the question is correct, subject to some qualifications. Refer to the topics of "Pollution" and "Ecology/Environmental Movement" in The Ayn Rand Lexicon.

answered Aug 24 '12 at 02:09

Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

Ideas for Life ♦

I am generally for industrial progress. It is clear that it brought about unprecedented benefits to man. But the "negative externalities" cannot be swept under the rug. People in Chinese towns die from polluted river water, the Minamata mercury disaster did sicken and kill Japanese people etc. Is there anything between the two extreme poles of "all industry is good" and "no industry is good" positions? Clearly owners of industrial firms don't always behave morally (Bhopal, India) and there is damage to nature and people that certain industries can perpetrate. Is this just to be ignored?

(Aug 24 '12 at 10:30) Danneskjold_repo Danneskjold_repo's gravatar image

People in India/China that who don't want to live by a polluted river can relocate to a new location in India, or a different country. Of course, for the latter there needs to be an open immigration policy, and for the former, India/China should be a capitalist country that can make such moves as easy as switching a job in America. When a factory in China can not find enough workers, they will be forced to improve the ir operation.

(Jul 01 '13 at 00:26) Bop Bop's gravatar image

The answer is property rights. If the people actually owned their land, they would be able to sue the factory for polluting their water/air/soil. This presumes an impartial justice system which requires a limited government to support it.

answered Jun 20 '13 at 09:53

empiric's gravatar image

empiric ♦

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Asked: Aug 23 '12 at 18:23

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Last updated: Jul 01 '13 at 00:26