Thank you for your response. I also really like the environment.
It is very true that values will vary based on the individual, which is why the invisible hand works nicely — it lets us determine how much we value something. But the example of your neighbors liking your yard or your youtube video — that might not be seeing the forest for the trees. Costs and benefits are notoriously difficult to pin down to a number, and I don’t know that trying to find the exact value is what is important. What I think is important is that these principles are accessible to the public. Negative externalities and true costs of production are so esoteric yet they are critical if we are to live in a market-based economy, and a free-market one at that — especially when you consider the costs of climate change and who will have to pay those costs.
To your point, how much a polar bears means to me is obviously different than to my neighbor, so if we are to put a price on it, what should it be? I am not sure that anyone has that quite figured out. But we can look at scenarios where we see major levels of pollution, such as blue-green algae blooms in Florida affecting hundreds of thousands of people, and make a reasonable assumption that these people are paying the cost of pollution from a transaction that they did not necessarily engage in. They will also be paying for the cleanup, paying in lost real estate, paying in their health, and paying in days that they sat in their home cursing their misfortune. When we look at this scenario — where we have a group, such as the government, paying for the cleanup — the costs are passed onto society. That is not what was intended by the invisible hand or the free market.
As to your diversification point, what is very interesting about the environment is that yes we are different and we value things differently, but as humans we will feel consequences of shrinking natural resources, poor water quality, poor air quality, etc. quite similarly because we are both human. Interesting thought.
I don’t know if I would agree with pragmatarianism, at least not just yet. I think you have to consider issues of equity. The nonprofit sector receives the same criticism for the wealthy selecting where their donations go. I imagine if you chose where your taxes went (not the proportion of total taxes) you would run into the same equity issues.
Calling it market failure vs. container — might that be semantics? Or could you expand on container v. market failure? Whether you call it the container or the market failure, I agree that where we start to see failure or see benefits gets very fuzzy. Because markets are messy.