We want the maximum good per person; but what is good?
To one person it is wilderness, to another it is ski lodges for thousands. To one it is estuaries to nourish ducks for hunters to shoot; to another it is factory land.
Comparing one good with another is, we usually say, impossible because goods are incommensurable. Incommensurables cannot be compared.
— Garrett Hardin, “The Tragedy of the Commons”
Each participant or organization in the working group engages in conservation activities for a specific set of reasons — as a primary organizational focus, as a public service to the state’s taxpayers and residents, as a means to promote better management of natural resources, as a means of promoting specific resource values, etc.
Organizational objectives will necessarily have an impact on the group’s outlook and willingness to promote certain conservation policies or funding mechanisms. For example, the Mackinac Center’s Environmental Policy Initiative is primarily focused on the development of efficient market-based policies that enable low tax rates, limited government and efficient environmental management and conservation. In contrast, other groups have conservation as their primary focus and may support any effort to that end. They may welcome additional funding for conservation, whether publicly or privately sourced, for example.
The differing incentives and the often-blurred lines between public and private means of promoting conservation highlights the importance of educating the public about the value of private conservation options.* The deliberate focus of the working group’s efforts is, therefore, based solidly in the Mackinac Center-founded concept of the Overton Window. That is because the working group’s efforts should help organizations and agencies to know what private conservation options are politically viable and potentially available to them.
From the Mackinac Center publication, “Overton Window of Political Possibility”[*]
The Overton Window of Political Possibility is a model developed to explain public policy change. When public policies … are arranged from freest to least free, only a relatively narrow window of options will be considered politically acceptable. This window of politically acceptable policies is not defined primarily by what politicians would prefer; rather, it is defined by what they believe they can support and still win re-election. Hence, the window shifts to include new policies or exclude old ones, not when ideas change among politicians, but when ideas change in the society that elects them.
This working group project aims to coordinate conservation projects in the state, educate the public and encourage legislative or agency efforts that promote private conservation. That is, we will work to move the Overton Window in the direction of making private conservation opportunities better understood and more politically possible, and to expand opportunity based on examples of those options already in use and widely accepted. We see this effort as a “win-win” opportunity regardless of political affiliation in that it promotes private conservation — that does not require additional expenditures of tax dollars — while also promoting more effective management and protection of undeveloped, or minimally-developed, areas across the state.
[*]“The Overton Window” (Mackinac Center for Public Policy, 2020) https://www.mackinac.org/overtonwindow.