The ecological social contract

Jos de Beus

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademic


The natural environment of human beings often connotes publicness. Ecologists argue that an elimination of the current ecological catastrophe is a public good at local, regional, fluvial, continental or global levels; consider for instance, the dumping of poisonous waste, eutrophication, deforestation, acidification or ozone layer depletion. At all these levels the common interests of large numbers of human beings are at stake, including the interests of other sentients derived from these interests.’ Economists stress that the solution of urgent environmental problems will buttress public opulence, Paretian efficiency or social welfare in the long run. And political scientists state that the green movement differs from old social movements, since the old “us against them” perspective is replaced by an “all of us” perspective (Offe, 1990p. 234). Many of these scientists argue that the contemporary ecological crisis has been brought about by a lack of coordination and a conflict about the distribution of the costs of coordination between persons and corporate actors: the ecosystem has attained a state of anarchy. That may very well be the moment for salvation of the Hobbesian Leviathan, the opposite of theZeitgeist of libertarianism, regional politics, and global capitalism (Siebert, 1990p. 18).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEnvironmental protection
Subtitle of host publicationpublic or private choice
EditorsR.J. in 't Veld, D.J. Kraan
Place of PublicationDordrecht
Number of pages25
ISBN (Electronic)978-94-011-3560-3
ISBN (Print)978-94-010-5577-2
Publication statusPublished - 1991

Publication series

NameEconomy & environment
PublisherKluwer Academic Publishers
ISSN (Print)0924-1019


  • Public choice
  • Environmental policy
  • Social contract
  • Social contract theory
  • Ozone layer depletion


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