FREE's Future

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FREE's Future

By: John A. Baden, Ph.D.
Posted on September 11, 2015 FREE Insights

The academic calendar provides the natural cadence for FREE's work.  It usually peaks during summers with seminars and conferences and policy salons at our ranch.  During the traditional school year we write, do research, attend conferences, and give talks at universities.  Next month, for example I'm speaking on environmental entrepreneurship at Duke University. 

As the influence of the web increases FREE is moving away from expensive seminars, conferences, and book production. Our classical liberal challenge to the Green mantra, "scientific management" via command and control is mainly through small policy salons and the electronic web.  This change implies considerable cost savings. Conferences are expensive to organize and host while younger people seek information on the web. 

The conventional Green model of natural resource management requires command and control by government agencies.  This is a legacy of the Progressive Era's commitment to "scientific management" by government experts.  This system is expensive, inefficient, rigid--and funded entirely with discretionary funds. This approach had the fundamental flaws of knowledge and political influence so well explained by Hayek, Sowell, and public choice economists. 

In Yellowstone Park it led to immediate fire suppression, feeding hotel garbage to grizzlies, and the extermination of the wolf.  Each of these flawed federal policies developed powerful constituencies inside and outside the Park Service.  It took decades of work by smart and courageous Yellowstone Park leaders to correct these problems. 

We explored and documented this successful struggle with FREE's "Wisdom of the Elders" video and essays.  Three brief essays are posted on FREE Insights and will soon also be posted on

Capturing the "Wisdom of the Elders"

The Elders' Error: Neglecting Intellectual Entrepreneurship

When Elders Error, Part I

Over the past four decades FREE and its allies in think tanks and universities developed new models of natural resource management.  We designed them to insulate America's romance lands, parks and wildlands, from corporate exploitation and political pathologies.  They are based on cooperative behavior expressed as entrepreneurial environmentalism. 

Ducks Unlimited is a classic example.  It employs property rights and the market process to preserve habitat.  This work often opposes government subsidies to drain wetlands and overproduce crops.  Consider federal mandates requiring 40% of our corn production to be used for ethanol. 

FREE shares such understanding with opinion leaders and decision makers.  Our major goal is describe organizations and arrangements that conjoin ecology, responsible liberty, and modest prosperity.  This is a virtuous trio indeed.

In the late 1800 and early 1900s the well intended reforms of the Progressive Era constrained much environmental plunder and over exploitation of resources.  Alas, its reliance on "scientific management" by government experts generated its own pathologies.   Exterminating wolves, creating garbage dependent grizzlies, and extinguishing all fires are Yellowstone examples.  FREE's Wisdom of the Elders policy salon celebrated the corrections.  

There are, alas, more problems ahead.  One, America's current and actuarial deficit, is more certain than climate change.  The advertized federal deficit is a bit over $17 trillion.  The actuarial deficit, the sum of promised expenditures, is something over $80 plus trillion.  

As America's federal deficit grows, funds for managing our parks, wildlands, and wildlife are crowded out.   They are discretionary.  And in the political arena entitlements trump ecology and welfare beats wildlife.   Unlike most alleged environmental crises, running out of energy, the population bomb, acid rain, etc., tighter finances for our parks and wildlands are certain.  This is a persistent and growing threat. 

Fortunately, organizational entrepreneurs have developed constructive ways to deal with diminishing funding from governments.  That is where the action will be.  FREE will be involved by providing participants, analysts, and commentators. Our goal remains conjoining responsible liberty, environmental quality, and modest prosperity.


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