Liberty and the Environment

This paper entitled Only liberty entails sustainable development was written in the early 2000s and published in French on the web site of the Québécois Libre, by the time one of the very few French language webzines publicizing the libertarian thought[1]. Henceforth, the cause of liberty has gained interest through various francophone institutes and webzines dedicated to its promotion, although it remains heterodox in traditional a medias. In that respect, it is likely that the Québécois Libre has played a pioneering role and let us congratulate Erwan Quéinnec for his contribution to the promotion of francophone libertarian ecology and free market environmentalism.

Be it rightist or leftist, French intellectualism binds capitalism and free market to all kinds of social and economic plagues. Not surprisingly, ecology is at the top of the list of charges. Such a trial is not specific to French debates: forty years of radical and/or deep ecology and academic theory in Economics (Environmental Economics, Ecological Economics) made a major contribution to the belief that free market is harmful to the natural environment. This is precisely what this paper runs counter of: it argues that liberty anchored in property rights does better than regulation, taxation or policy in order to take care of natural assets in a rational and sustainable way.


Eighteen years after its publication online, ICREI is glad to reissue that paper in the course of illustrating the relevance of the French free market environmentalism thought and regret its poor influence on public environmental policies, both in France and Quebec.

Max Falque

[1] This site owes existence to two Canadian libertarians, Martin Masse et Jasmin Guénette. For many years, it has published various papers from numerous authors, both in English and French, on all sorts of issues. It is easy to get access to these papers on Internet although the Québécois Libre is currently asleep as a publication.



By Erwan Quéinnec


Although green political parties usually support “leftist” ecological policies, the foundations of a free capitalist economy prove to be utterly ecological. It is so since the economic principle itself commends to take care of rare resources through the allocation of property rights and the search for efficient modes of production, over a long period of time. In a free market (capitalist) economy, growth actually hinges on productivity gains that originate in economizing raw materials and optimizing the usage of assets in order to generate savings. To the contrary, growth regimes based on an overconsumption of inputs are typical of (non sustainable) socialist economies. Moreover, economies of liberty are more than the constitutional matrix of “capitalism”; they bring about new ideas, values and tastes that progressively shape the demand of consumers for environmental goods, all the more since subjective needs go more “spiritual” over time. Thus, it is likely that freedom of trade and private property of environmental goods back “sustainable development” more efficiently than do fiscal or regulatory policies, although the latter have become commonplace in current economies.