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Wess Gray

I have thought about a question on this subject for a couple of weeks now and decided I would go ahead and ask it.
Would you please explain how this fits in with your Libertarian thoughts. I don't want to be argumentative, I just would really appreciate your insights on the matter.
As always, thanks and I always enjoy the blog.

Rick Toone

Wess — I'd like to explore the issue in more depth. But first, could you clarify slightly so I can better understand your question.

When you ask "how this fits in with (my) Libertarian thoughts" do you mean...

a) Why am I writing about this topic?
b) Who do I think should clean up the mess?
c) What is a Libertarian perspective on environmental pollution?

...or something else entirely? Are you more interested in my personal thoughts or in an "official" Libertarian perspective (if there is one)?

Thanks for kick-starting the philosophy machine.

Wess Gray

Thanks for your kind reply.
As a Libertarian, I want to think that I always believe in personal freedom and responsibility. I want the federal government to protect me from foreign aggression and stay out of my life, thats about it ... until it comes to "meth user's". Then I really believe that the government needs to step in and do something (what, I don't know, but just something). In my head, I know that these people have the right to live their life as they wish, as long as it does not involve me. But still ....
This is one of many of my own problems with being a "good" Libertarian.
As you can probably guess, I like your thoughts on libertarianism as well as your abilities on the guitar (both inside, outside, and on).
So my surprise was when you mentioned "the superfund", a huge federal project as an answer.
I value your personal insight, and thank you for taking the time to help me think through this


Rick Toone

Wess — here are a couple of other ways of looking at this...

Prohibition (alcohol) did not work in the 1920's and the war on drugs is not working today. We've consistently seen it is impossible to legislate morality, because humans will always pursue personal pleasure gratification — inebriation, sex, etc. — irrespective of legality.

Meth is the drug equivalent of moonshine. I think it is a drug of last resort, rather than a drug of choice. Because we'll never stop users, it is better to allow less toxic options. If drugs were legalized and regulated, just like alchohol, I predict meth use would decline substantially.

LINK | http://www.ricktoone.com/2008/01/war-on-drugs.html

Regarding the Superfund site, it has become a huge federal project because our system enabled bad behavior. Essentially, knowing there is a "safety net" (EPA) allows polluters to avoid responsibility for their own actions.

In terms of the Crown Vantage Landfill, that company should be held accountable and required to remediate. Responsibility extends through the corporate shield to owners, shareholders, and those who participated willfully in the pollution. Because Crown Vantage's assets were bought by Georgia Pacific, GP should be held liable and required to remediate.

By deferring the expense of the clean up to the EPA, it socializes the costs and penalizes non-polluters unrelated to this incident — who now have to pay for Crown Vantage's wrongs. Responsible business owners (and citizens) are forced to carry an additional tax burden to clean up someone else's mess.

It is not unlike the financial bailouts currently taking place. Knowing they will be "saved" by the Federal Reserve creates moral hazard and encourages irrational risk taking by investment bankers. Put more simply, the principle is: "Whatever you subsidize, you will get more of." (Ron Paul)

This principle even applies to children with behavior problems in the classroom.


The EPA is a government-created response to toxic pollution. But the agency is also underfunded (broke) and site remediation times are measured in years, if not decades.

So, some questions:

• What would change if our judiciary system facilitated prosecution of pollution offenders...extending even to individuals...and through the corporate shield?

• What would change if there were private (for profit) competitors to the EPA? Would remediation times or costs adjust, and how?

• What should be done about legacy sites that have no clear line of responsibility — sites created by businesses or individuals long dead? Would this be an appropriate oversight role for the EPA, combined with private remediation? I would speculate most people would willingly socialize the cost of this category of site, for our own health and for future generations, provided it did not set a precedent for future moral hazard, as per above.

I'm sure there are other perspectives, but this reflects my current thinking. Thoughts welcomed.

Tricia Toone

Rick, I agree with your points but I would also like to add a clarification.

Libertarians mostly agree that the role of government is only to protect us from harm and protect our individual liberties. On the surface level, one might think it is okay for a land owner to do as they please with their property. But in a case such as the Crown Vantage Landfill, the landowners were endangering others by through their pollution. No different from putting poison in your neighbor's coffee. Therefore, through our court system, they should be personally responsible for the harm they caused.

Wess Gray

Hello Rick,
I haven't forgot about a response, just thinking.
Thanks for your waiting.


....again, how about a resource-based society?

Various research, as well as the open-source phenomenon in the last twenty years, indicate such a system, rather than encouraging people to 'be lazy' would encourage them to be interested in the entirety of their world.

Certainly general affluence without economic status would negate many of the social and psychological issues most people have.

(Note: politics is no different than religion. Governance (order and function) is a totally different matter.)

Marc Reed


I am the guy who made the video The Papermill, and I thank you for including it on this wonderful, informative site. I also live just downriver of the landfill. As I'm sure you know, the mill itself has now also been declared a superfund site.

I have also spent time searching the web for meaningful discussion on this site and have been surprised to find so little. It was a pleasure to read your excellent article Perfect Place to Live.

In 2007, I spent quite a lot of time at that mill. On the grounds of the mill I witnessed a red fox stalking a nearby family of wild turkeys. I saw a huge community of turkey vultures nesting inside. I observed groundhogs living in the power-house. I also saw local children exploring inside, as local children will certainly do.

Like you, I am concerned about what dangers that site poses to downriver communities. To have two large superfund sites just upriver from your home is unsettling to say the least. I am grateful for the actions of the EPA regarding this site, and I am grateful to you for having published and made available your wonderful article. It helps shed some light on a fairly fuzzy situation up there.

--Marc Reed

Rick Toone

Mark — thanks for commenting. I really enjoy your video. You've got a wonderful eye for color, light and timing (edits). Great concept, perfectly executed.

Let me know if you'd be interested in doing video associated with guitar building...

I was contacted by Shaun Ellis of Soupcon Salon in Lambertville, NJ. http://www.soupconsalon.com/

Shaun's also very interested/concerned with the Crown Vantage situation and suggested meeting to discuss what we could do, in terms of publicity.

Please feel free to drop me an email and let's see if we can get some synergy going.

Wess Gray

I keep thinking about you and the problems that came with this area close to your home, wishing for some insight. But none comes. Thanks for allowing me to ask some questions.
Happy holidays to you and yours.


To all, this message a bit late but there is lots going on relating to the mill site. You are all invited to attend the Community Action Group, CAG, meetings which are held every three months in the Milford Library. Representatives from Georgia Pacific & International Paper, the current owners are there as well as several EPA employees and local government officials. The last meeting was June 21, 2010 so the next one is most likely in Sept. When I get the date I'll forward it.

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Rick Toone

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