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Pollution control devices, biblically (Exo. 22:5-6), are like spark retarding devices: They protect other people's property. Where there are multiple polluters, only the civil government can effectively restrain all polluters, for all are bound equally under civil law. In the case of a single violator, or potential violators, there are two reasons justifying the coercive intervention of the civil government. First, to use the biblical example of fire, a man who permits a fire to get out of control may see an entire town burned to the ground. There is no way, economically, that he can make full restitution. In fact, it would be almost impossibly expensive to assess the value of the destroyed property. Therefore, in high-risk situations, the civil government can legitimately establish minimum fire prevention standards. Second, and far less relevant, there may be cases of polluters who are identifiable, but who injure many neighbors in a minor, though measurable, way. The costs of assembling all the injured parties —search costs, lawyer fees, delays in court hearings, injury assessments —into one or more legitimate complaining units may be too high for each member of the group to bear. Class-action suits are one means of seeking restitution. Another is the establishment of fines for polluters, including graduated fines as the levels of pollution increase. Least desirable, probably, is the outright abolition of the pollution-producing activity, although the costs of pollution abatement may in effect serve as outright prohibitions on marginally profitable firms. The Bible affirms that each man is responsible for his actions. No man is to pass along the costs of any activity to his neighbor, apart from the latter's consent. Where there is ownership (legitimate sovereignty), there must also be responsibility.
- James Jordan, The Law of the Covenant 138-40 (1984), at http://www.garynorth.com/freebooks/: HTML, DjVu.