Keep Mining Your Own Business

by Don Boudreaux on August 21, 2007

in Environment, Movies

In today’s Wall Street Journal, John Fund defends poor people from the self-righteous environmentalists who would deny these people the fruits of economic growth.  Specifically, John has good things to say about the movie "Mine Your Own Business" — discussed earlier at the Cafe — about a small Romanian village whose residents want a new mine built but whose non-resident environmentalist ‘champions’ object to the mine.

Here’s the penultimate paragraph of John’s essay:

"Mine Your Own Business" also contains interviews with leading
environmentalists opposing other mining projects who display smug
indifference to bettering the lives of poor people. In Madagascar, Mr.
McAleer [the movie's host and narrator] finds Mark Fenn, country director for the World Wide Fund for
Nature, who argues that the poor are just as happy as the rich because
they smile more and that if Madagascar locals (who now earn $100 a
month) get more money "they’ll buy cases of beer, invite their friends,
they’ll throw a party . . . three, four days the money’s gone." He then
shows off his new $35,000 catamaran.

I close with the words of a song written and recorded by the late and truly great Hank Williams, Sr.: "Mindin’ other people’s business seems to be high-tone/I got all that I can do just to mine my own/So why don’t you mind your own business……"

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{ 13 comments }

save_the-rustbelt August 21, 2007 at 10:08 am

Don is a Hank Williams fan?! I feel all warm and fuzzy now.

Being a "conservationist*" I am sick of radical environmentalists.

On the other hand, the right wing "deny everything" dittohead lobby is just as nuts.

Most environmental debates involve two sets of extremists screaming at each other. Great way to set policy.

* A conservationist has common sense and has acutally had mud on his/her boots, unlike the sniveling enviro-geeks. And we love venison.

Kawliga August 21, 2007 at 12:34 pm

I agree with STR who is tired of both radical environmentalists as well as the right wing “deny everything” nonsense. It seems obvious to me that market based programs that efficiently allocate the right to pollute (tradable pollution permits, for example) would be much better for the environment than the posturing from these two extreme groups.

The government should be doing more as well. Of the few legitimate purposes that government has, preventing externalities to the environment should be high on the list. Instead, the government is subsidizing oil (a la the Iraq War) as well as the agricultural industry, the negative environmental externalities of each are too numerous to mention.

Shakespeare's Fool August 21, 2007 at 2:04 pm

". . .the poor are just as happy as the rich because they
smile more. . . ."

And the "darkies" are happy because they are always
singing. . . as Maya Angelou put it in

" I know why the caged bird sings"

"A free bird leaps on the back of the wind
and floats downstream till the current ends
and dips his wing in the orange suns rays
and dares to claim the sky.

"But a bird that stalks down his narrow cage
can seldom see through his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

"The caged bird sings with a fearful trill
of things unknown but longed for still
and his tune is heard on the distant hill
for the caged bird sings of freedom.

"The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawn
and he names the sky his own.

"But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

"The caged bird sings with a fearful trill
of things unknown but longed for still
and his tune is heard on the distant hill
for the caged bird sings of freedom."

Eric August 21, 2007 at 2:27 pm

I agree that true environmental externalities are an issue (those that cannot be solved by enforcing property rights). Market-based pollution controls worry, me, however, because the "appropriate" amount of pollution is still ultimately a bureaucratic determination. Thus, such a determination is open to political influence.

Does anyone know of a way around this?

vidyohs August 21, 2007 at 3:35 pm

For myself I can imagine owning my own home. Then coming home everyday from work and finding an uninvited person standing on my doorstep with a gun (for back-up force) visible in a holster at his/her waistband. This univited person then demands that I thoroughly wipe my feet clean before entering my own home on the grounds that he/she does not want my carpet to get dirtied.

Then when I object that my carpets are my concern and no one else's, being told with now unholstered gun, that either I comply or I will not be allowed out of the home anymore under any circumstance.

I might protest that the cleanliness of my carpets in MY home are MY business and none of anyone else's; and, I might protest loudly that if forced to stay in the home, I will not be able to work and therefore pay for the home or the carpets. I might point out that if the cleanliness of my carpets have somehow become a concern of strangers then somehow a sickness has entered our society. All of that and still to have my concerns and protests ignored.

That's pretty much how I see the issue revealed in "Mine your own business".

Tear in my beer August 21, 2007 at 5:23 pm

Vidyous- The issue is with public goods (clean air, clean oceans and so forth), not private goods. Your house analogy is faulty for this reason.

vidyohs August 21, 2007 at 7:36 pm

Vidyous- The issue is with public goods (clean air, clean oceans and so forth), not private goods. Your house analogy is faulty for this reason.

TIMB,
No sir, the issue is nondwellers dictating to dwellers on the state of their home. Even more horrifying is that the nondwellers are not objecting on the grounds of any damage, but solely on what they (why they think they have this right is beyond me) believe may possibly result.

There is no evidence on the table that the mine "will" pollute anyone's air beyond that of the actual dwellers. There is no evidence on the table to support a claim that ground water "will" be polluted outside the immediate vcinity of the sweller's own homes. There is no evidence on the table that shows that the mining "will" pollute oceans. All of that is BS because the mine hasn't even been designed much less built and operating. Furthermore the Dwellers themselves have come down solidly on opening a mine because they are dirt poor and need some source of income. If you have been paying attention to this subject/situation then you have to understand the motive for the nondwellers is not saving the people from themselves, but to preserve their own little quaint vacation spot.

But then as with my home anaolgy, how does a nondweller assume the authority to dictate to anyone the state of their Dwellings?

My home analogy is spot on for that reason.

The state in which I keep my carpet is of no concern to anyone but myself and those who live in my home; and it will in no way detract from the quality of life of those who do not live in my home.

If the people in my home are happy with the state of my carpet, contribute to that state, and think it is appropriate, then there is no room for outside interference.

I am sorry that you haven't yet advanced enough in your wisdom to understand something that simple.

Russ Nelson August 21, 2007 at 9:53 pm

vid: part of the reason that you are not allowed to pollute your property is because the state has retained the right to collect taxes. Thus, they are just protecting their property right to a future stream of taxes. One way to increase freedom is to allow people to buy the right to collect taxes … alloidal property. Trouble is that will be priced at the entire future value of the taxes.

vidyohs August 22, 2007 at 6:23 am

Russ Nelson,
I am familiar with that but I don't believe it is relevant to the topic.

To my understanding it is not the state that is the instigator of the problem in Romania or Madagascar, it is "nondwellers", outsiders, whackoenviros from other nations that are exerting pressure on the state to deny the progress and keep the communities in question poor and "quaint".

Eric August 22, 2007 at 11:42 am

Russ Nelson,

I don't dispute that state environmental policies support your assertion, but I wonder about the morality of this situation. It sounds to me like we have returned back to the days of monarchy when the sovereign (the king or queen) "owned" all of the property in his/her kingdom and only let others use it in exchange for fees or services.

Has private property become an illusion?

Johnny Bristau January 14, 2008 at 2:44 am

"Mine Your Own Business" can also concentrate on mining your own success and bettering the lives ^_^

Braintao March 5, 2008 at 5:49 pm

Mine Your Own Business" also contains interviews with leading environmentalists opposing other mining projects who display smug indifference to bettering the lives of poor people. In Madagascar, Mr. McAleer [the movie's host and narrator] finds Mark Fenn, country director for the World Wide Fund for Nature, who argues that the poor are just as happy as the rich because they smile more and that if Madagascar locals (who now earn $100 a month) get more money "they'll buy cases of beer, invite their friends, they'll throw a party . . . three, four days the money's gone." He then shows off his new $35,000 catamaran.

amosgitai July 16, 2008 at 5:56 pm

Beautiful blog… I'll be back soon!

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