Letters to the Editor
Readers write about regulating a competition-based economy and the nonmonetary value of forests.
Regulation is necessary in competition-based market
Regarding the Oct. 22 Opinion piece, "Government regulation, not free-market greed, caused this crisis": Author Steven Horwitz couldn't be further from the mark on the cause of the housing and credit crises.
He cites Adam Smith's assertion in "Wealth of Nations" that greed is good, that it motivates the individual to act for the good of the economy as a whole. But what Smith had no concept of, and what economists generally seem to forget, is that without regulation, greed is not good. Greed, without regulation, drives people to go to enormous lengths to seek profit. In a system of competition, rules are in place to prevent people from taking unfair advantage of others.
No, it was the lack of regulation that caused this crisis, and the same basic lack of regulation that caused the Great Depression.
This piece's thesis was roundly rebuked by Alan Greenspan himself, who said before Congress that credit-default swaps and other financial instruments should have been regulated. He admitted he was wrong to think the free market would make decisions that benefited its shareholders and not its CEOs and high-level employees.
Forests have value beyond money
Regarding the Oct. 23 editorial, "Value a forest, cool a planet": We applaud the Monitor's editorial board for correctly acknowledging the tremendous value of intact forest ecosystems. The marketplace does a poor job of capturing these values. We would add to the board's thesis by emphasizing the importance of mature forest ecosystems.
Mature forest ecosystems store far more carbon than young forests. Mature forests are thus more effective tools for combating the impacts of continued burning of fossil fuels.
We agree that forests can be seen as carbon sinks and be valued for their capacity to store carbon. Paying for carbon storage is, however, not enough. Forest ecosystems provide an array of beneficial attributes that may not be ascribed to monetary values. These attributes include serving as hot spots for biodiversity, protecting soils, providing quality and stable water resources, stimulating climatic activities, and providing recreational opportunities.
Effective protection of these values will require an assortment of tools, including public policies and private conservation initiatives.
Thank you very much for your editorial on deforestation and its effect on global warming. I have an additional concern that I have never heard anyone address.
Trees are the primary source of our planetary oxygen supply. When a tree is cut, not only is the carbon dioxide trapped in it released into the atmosphere, the oxygen that it provided is permanently ended. When I read that both the rain forest and boreal forest are being simultaneously cut down at a massive rate, and that the American part of our continent has only some 5 percent of its original forest left, I see a huge loss of this vital element.
I think this issue could be sneaking up on us one tree at a time.
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