Early last year, backers of
the federal sugar subsidy found themselves in an unusual position:
their program was criticized in a major media outlet. "Strict quotas
on cheaper foreign sugar maintain the support price levels," wrote
New York Times reporter Eric Schmitt, "which critics say
benefit a small number of wealthy plantation owners and encourage
overproduction in environmentally sensitive areas like the Florida
Schmitt is virtually alone
in the news media. Other reporters simply assume that when it comes
to the environment, free enterprise is bad and government is good.
Print journalists rarely, and network journalists never, report on
how some large federal programs are environmentally destructive, as
well as burdensome to taxpayers and consumers.
Jonathan Tolman of the
Competitive Enterprise Institute argues that the federal peanut
program, for instance, harms the environment. By allotting quotas by
county, the government ensures that "peanuts are grown year after
year in the same handful of counties and nowhere else. In some
regions this means that extensive quantities of pesticides are
Tolman reports, for
example, that government quotas favor Georgia, even though "peanuts
grown in Georgia use 13 pounds of pesticide per acre, while those
grown in Texas require only three pounds per acre."
Network news viewers
probably also are unaware that free enterprise can be pro-green,
despite an array of private, for- profit efforts to protect the
Terry L. Anderson and
Donald R. Leal of the Political Economy Research Center argue, in a
August 26 Wall Street Journal column, that "enviro-capitalists"
are a "new breed of environmental entrepreneurs," who use "the tools
of capitalism instead of command-and-control tactics" in order "to
preserve open space, develop wildlife habitat, and save endangered
Anderson and Leal point out
that the International Paper Company, for example, leases land in
its Southern U.S. timber holdings for hunting and fishing, which has
become an important source of profits for IP. They also note that a
South African eco-tourism company gave landholders there a stake in
environmental protection by making them shareholders in the company.
This, in turn, created "large habitats for African wildlife,
allowing wild animals to replace the cattle and crops that
previously occupied the land."
"Private property rights
and free markets have contributed mightily to our economic wealth,"
Anderson and Leal write. "What few realize — especially in
Washington, D.C. — is that they can contribute just as mightily to
our environmental wealth." Perhaps because reporters haven’t told
This article is adapted
from a Free Market Project Special Report,
The Forgotten Five: Important
Economic Facts Missing in the News. To see the full report, visit
the MRC web site. (www.mediaresearch.org)