Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Cheney finale

Here's a link to the final story in the WaPo series on Cheney's backstage and backdoor use of power. This one concentrates on finding ways to weaken environmental regulation. It turns out that Cheney was instrumental in getting the water from several dams to flow in the Klamath area along the California-Oregon border in 2001. I remember the events, and in this case I have to sympathize with Cheney. I think the farmers should have gotten the water too, even though an argument could be and was made that the Endangered Species Act mandated that it be used for fish populations. But much as I might agree with Cheney's goals in this case, his methods were characteristically sneaky.

The entire incident shows the complications that ensue when resources are treated as public property. If "everybody" owns something then nobody really owns it, but in practice the government controls it and decisions about its use or allocation are made through political process rather than through voluntary marketplace mechanisms. This often leads to contention and resentment and nearly always leads to inefficient allocation. Better for most resources to be privately owned with clearly delineated property lines and rights.

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