Environmental Policy Initiative

Guiding Principles

The Environmental Policy Initiative (EPI) at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy will attempt to answer two key questions with its work. They are:

  • What unique geographical and environmental features does Michigan have that could contribute to improving the well-being of its residents?
  • How can the state maximize the value of those unique features, promote a balance of environmental health and economic vigor, and secure citizen access to natural resources and the benefits they provide?

Six basic principles will guide EPI’s research, writing and policy suggestions as we attempt to answer these questions.

  1. Human-centered: People are our most important resource and people determine the relative value and weighting of various natural resources – from protected areas, to dynamic ecosystems, clean fresh water, reliable and affordable energy, readily available building materials, or abundant food production. History demonstrates that those things most valued by humans are more likely to enjoy protection and proliferation.[*]
  2. Prosperity is healthy: Access to abundant, reliable and affordable natural resources, such as fossil fuels, water and minerals, is a necessary precondition for human flourishing. Policies should be aimed at improving access to, and sustainable use of, these resources. Policies should not unreasonably interfere with or stifle their consumption.[†]
  3. Economic freedom and free markets: Voluntary competition and cooperation – not command-and-control-style management – fosters innovation, efficiency and wise use of natural resources. Free markets encourage the efficient use of raw materials and should be the default mechanism for ensuring the sustainable use of Michigan’s abundant natural resources.[‡]
  4. Property rights and personal liberty: Property rights are "the most basic of human rights and an essential foundation for other human rights,” and environmental management is most effective when property and tenure rights are secure.[§][**] Protection of property rights within a free market system encourages innovation and experimentation in the management, use, and conservation of Michigan’s natural resources.[††][‡‡]
  5. Science-based and site-specific: Science should be a primary tool in the management of Michigan’s natural resources. Attention must also be given to local and historical knowledge. Effective managers recognize that natural resources are resilient and respond well to management techniques that are tailored to specific ecosystems and specific populations.
  6. Positive benefits at an efficient cost: Environmental regulation must transparently and efficiently demonstrate positive environmental benefit.

[*]Spencer, J. (ed.) Environmental Conservation: Eight Principles of the American Conservation Ethic. The Heritage Foundation, 2012.

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[†]Oliver, A. Energy and Environmental Policy at the Independence Institute. Independence Institute, (unpublished).

[‡]Anderson, T.L. and D.R. Leal. Free Market Environmentalism: Special 20th Anniversary Edition. PALGRAVE, 2001.

[§]Friedman, M and R. Friedman. Two Lucky People: Memoirs. University of Chicago Press, 1998.

[**]Hayes, J. “Secure tenure & property rights as an effective tool to encourage conservation.” master’s thesis., University of Calgary, 2007, http://sirsi1.lib.ucalgary.ca/uhtbin/cgisirsi/0/0/0/5?library=UCALGARY-S&searchdata1=%5EC2866445.

[††]Thierer, A. Permissionless Innovation: The Continuing Case for Comprehensive Technological Freedom – Revised and Expanded Edition. Mercatus Center (GMU), 2016.

[‡‡]Goklany, I. The Precautionary Principle: A Critical Appraisal of Environmental Risk Assessment. The Cato Institute, 2001.

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