Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Owning Water & Marketing Water

Over at St. Maximos' Hut:
"This goes to the argument in Thomas Woods' The Church and the Market that says that moral arguments that do not recognize economic realities are not effective moral arguments. I find this position compelling.

Thus it seems to me that we ought to be able to demand that opponents of markets bear the burden of proof on showing how alternative institutions will provide a superior outcome on both moral and practical terms."

The issue underlying this blog post seems to be whether or not to use markets to allocate water. This may be another illustration of an inaccurate or imprecise discussion of "market." I suspect that the mistake in analysis here is to actually characterize the policy concerns as whether to market water or not. I suspect the real issue is whether to have individuals own water on terms like any other private property ownership, or whether to have government own the water.

I don't think we can have something owned in a way other than private ownership. The question then is whether individuals own water or government is the only private owner. If individuals do not own water, then either no one owns water and it is an open access resource, or government owns water. Government in the western United States seems to allow individual ownership, yet it does not allow the voluntary transfer of that ownership. I think this means government really owns the water and has decided on rules by which it will exclude some people from using water while allowing others.

The government can give up ownership and allow individuals to own and trade water, or it can continue with it's own ownership. If government continues it's own ownership, then the policy discussion should more explicitly discuss the rules government should choose with respect to excluding and allowing access and use of its water.

Do you think this is a crazy way of thinking about water in the West?

No comments: