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Let’s Call It Instead “Cleaned by Capitalism Day”

On this Earth Day my intrepid Mercatus Center colleague Veronique de Rugy and I review, in an op-ed in the Washington Examiner, just a handful of the many ways that innovative commercial markets make our environment cleaner.  A slice:

Consider the roof over your head. It seems mundane, but it’s really a marvel. Most of our ancestors lived beneath thatched roofs, which harbored mice, rats, birds, spiders, and insects. The bodily wastes and carcasses of these creatures rained down on the occupants below. And the floors beneath our ancestors’ feet were just as filthy: These were dirt strewn with thresh. (Our word “threshold” is a throwback to pre-industrial times when families put pieces of wood at the entrances to their huts to hold the thresh in.)

In reality, hard roofs and solid floors for the masses were made possible only by industrial capitalism, which greatly reduced the costs of producing these marvels.

Yet capitalism is today incessantly accused of increasing pollution and threatening our environment. This accusation false.

It’s true that the likes of factories, trucks, and cargo ships emit pollutants. But it’s untrue that capitalism makes our environment more polluted. The reason is that industrial pollutants are by-products of production processes that supply us with antibiotics and countless other anti-pollutants.

Among our favorite anti-pollutants is the automobile. Unlike pre-industrial transportation vehicles, automobiles don’t strew spittle, urine, and feces on our streets and sidewalks. And when automobiles die, their carcasses don’t rot in public and attract vermin and flies that then spread filth into our homes, schools, and workplaces.


And I thank Steve Hardy for alerting me to this marvelous stand-up bit by the late George Carlin on humans and the earth.  (Warning: some adult language.)