The Reformation in Managing Romance Lands: Harmonizing ecology, liberty, and prosperity

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The Reformation in Managing Romance Lands: Harmonizing ecology, liberty, and prosperity

By: John A. Baden, Ph.D.
Posted on November 09, 2017 FREE Insight Topics:

FREE began 2017 with a ten-day visit by Romanian economist Prof. Christian Nasulea and Ph. D. student Diana Spinu. They are classical liberals who work on environmental and information technology topics.  They share our interest in explaining why "romance lands" attract creative, active individuals with high human capital. This migration of talented, successful individuals is evident in Greater Yellowstone, the twenty million acres of "romance lands" surrounding the Park.  Bozeman is the epicenter of this magnet for talented individuals.

FREE sponsored Diana and Christians' talks at MSU's Honor College.  Working together with MSU Professor Jerry Johnson, we identified several early books that challenged conventional environmental paradigms, the Progressive Era's infamous "Scientific Management" scheme and the Green Movement. We are identifying additional books and they are currently being digitized in Romania. There, technical skills are high and labor cost low.  The books are being posted on FREE's Yellowstone Suite site. (  and


I helped organize Indiana University's first Earth Day celebration.  Alas, the date selected, April 22, 1970, was the centennial of V. I. Lenin's birthday.  Was this an accident?

At IU, and many other universities, members of the New Left became activists in the Green movement.  Environmentalism was their next cause.  Green replaced red. Ecology provided a new rationale for mobilization and corporate villains were obvious, soft targets indeed.  

Early Greens viewed capitalism as inherently evil.  They didn't understand how for-profit and nonprofit markets work as a discovery and coordinating process addressing citizens’ needs and demands.  To them, entrepreneurship was an alien, oft-hostile concept.  

The cultural context of environmentalism has changed.  For example, Yellowstone Forever and the American Prairie Reserve are two independent foundations based in Bozeman.  Both exemplify large-scale environmental entrepreneurship.  They mobilize cultural, financial, and scientific resources toward ecological ends.  Their work clearly demonstrates that entrepreneurship is a key to ecological sustainability and the preservation of our romance lands.  


In the early 1970s my MSU economist colleagues and I began publishing critiques and suggesting alternatives to "scientific management" and the emerging Green doctrine. We produced a great many academic and popular articles, columns, and books.  This list includes Managing the Commons by the famous ecologist Garrett Hardin and (the then young) John Baden.  It was the first book that explicitly linked ecology and economics using a political economy/cultural paradigm to analyze environmental problems, policies, and reforms.   

Initially published in 1977, it was in print for over 20 years with an enlarged second edition produced by Indiana University Press in 1998.  It is posted on FREE's Yellowstone Suite site. (  and

Managing the Commons challenged the two dominant strains of environmental activism.  Both approaches demand cultural changes biased toward ecological preservation and both favor huge bureaucracies to enforce the new Green visions.  People increasingly realize both approaches need substantial reformation.  Environmental entrepreneurship is key to successful reform.

Fortunately there is a rich array of academic and popular literature with the analytical leverage necessary to guide a reformation.  Our next task is to collect, organize, and encourage its distribution by making it readily available on FREE's web site and linked to our Yellowstone Suite website.



Here is a true, empirical, universal, generalization: Whatever the professed goals and ideals, bureaucracies are largely run for benefit of two groups.  These are the individuals running them and the constituencies upon whom they depend for political and economic support.  

Luther's posting of his 95 Theses responded to this timeless truth.  The Catholic Church’s sale of indulgences offends sensitivities of fairness and justice.  (Even Chicago politicians don't advertise their selling of "Get Out of Jail Free" cards while the Church did.)  Luther was an institutional entrepreneur who used education to create alternatives to Europe's most powerful monopolistic organization. He was by far the most productive scholar, publisher, and agitator in Europe.  (Martin Luther wrote over twenty volumes of books and articles.)

The Church was mired in corruption, alienated from the wider society, and primed for change. By unleashing that change, Luther brought the Christian faith a promise of better, freer life.  Likewise, his example inspires those advocating environmental policy reform.

This reform goes by two names, the New Resource Economics (NRE) and Free Market Environmentalism (FME).   Given its origin in Bozeman, proximity to Yellowstone National Park, and millions of acres of dramatic wildlands, forests, and range, the work focuses on the "romance" rather the "sludge" sector of environmental policy.  

Those using the NRE paradigm make the key Hayekian assumption: Time and place specific knowledge is widely diffused.  This suggests entrepreneurial responses to ecological challenges and opportunities will be more effective, adaptive, and ethical than command-and-control bureaucracies. At last, this applies whether operating under the myth of all knowing "scientific management" or the newer Green ideology.

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