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FYI: Krugman himself uses this statist argument for environmental protection:
Environmentalism began as a response to pollution that everyone could see. The spill in the gulf recalls the 1969 blowout that coated the beaches of Santa Barbara in oil. But 1969 was also the year the Cuyahoga River, which flows through Cleveland, caught fire. Meanwhile, Lake Erie was widely declared “dead,” its waters contaminated by algal blooms. And major U.S. cities — especially, but by no means only, Los Angeles — were often cloaked in thick, acrid smog.
It wasn’t that hard, under the circumstances, to mobilize political support for action. The Environmental Protection Agency was founded, the Clean Water Act was enacted, and America began making headway against its most visible environmental problems.
I understand the tragedy of the commons, but is there any historical evidence that this was the case with the Cuyahoga River? I’m trying to learn how it became so polluted.