Working Paper

Environmental Protection and Economic Well-Being: How Does (and How Should)Government Balance These Two Important Values?

Aug 31, 2003 | Robert N. Stavins


The organizers of an Aspen Institute conference have identified what they characterize as “the critical conundrum” — how business, government, and communications media balance the competing values of economic growth and a healthy environment. In this paper, prepared fordiscussion at the conference, I focus on government policy, and ask how government integrates economic concerns into its development of environmental policies. In addition, I ask whether and how government should carry out such integration of economic and environmental concerns. I consider two dimensions of environmental policy, which are closely interrelated but conceptually distinct: (1) what is the appropriate (and actual) degree of government activity; and (2) what form should (and does) government activity take. In this brief essay, I attempt to define the scope of these questions, and suggest criteria that can be used to evaluate responses.