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Nonpoint Pollution: Tractable Solutions to Intractable Problems

Nonpoint pollution goes right to a chink in the armor of conventionally trained economists (like myself) who are overtrained towards becoming protagonists of the price system. The very name “nonpoint” pollution suggests that economists see this as just an odd bit of clutter, something “non-regular” in their tidy world. Indeed, all pollution was an exception, an “externality”, until recently. Then economists learned you can meter effluents and tax them, or create and trade effluent rights like private property. Thenceforth they could fit pollution into existing models and ideologies with minimum intellectual strain. Unfortunately, we can’t meter runoff, it comes from areas, and its damages are spread unequally over other areas, differentially populated. Economists are ill-equipped and Undisposed to face such problems.
In Vladimir Novotny (ed.), Social and Economic Approaches to the Control of Non-point Pollution. Milwaukee: Marquette Univ. Press, 1987.

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