$5,000 per capita. The assumption is that increasing economic activity will have the effect of increasing demand for environmental quality and consequently lead more or less directly to environmental improvement.
These arguments are flawed for two principal reasons. The empirical data are derived from a period when environmental policies are known to have been inadequate. Consequently their interpretation is liable to be misleading since they reflect a period during which significant environmental costs continued to be deferred. Moreover, they reflect a period when environmental management and economic policies were inadequately integrated, thus increasing the cost of environmental measures.
On the other hand there exists a level of economic development at which no resources beyond those required to meet basic human needs are available—essentially a subsistence economy. At this level, the trade-off between environment and economic activities is akin to the farmer faced with the need to consume the next year's seed stock to assure immediate survival.
At all levels of economic activity, however, social preferences for environmental quality may differ. Most developed societies have come to tolerate certain levels of environmental risk and actual pollution. Social choices concerning these risks are liable to differ depending on a wide range of factors. Countries (and even jurisdictions within countries) must remain free to determine these preferences through their own processes of social choice, insofar as these decisions do not have impacts on others.
The intensity of human pressures on the environment varies widely. Some regions, centers of population and economic activity for the most part, are the focus of intense pressures. Those who live and work there benefit from the advantages of their location and suffer its disadvantages. Other regions, rural areas not used for agriculture for the most part, are characterized by an absence of human pressures on the environment, again resulting in specific advantages and disadvantages. It is difficult to determine how these differences are to be taken into account when comparing environmental management.
One approach is to focus on the areas of greatest intensity of use, which generally are also considered the motors of economic activity in the country or region, and to compare policies and practices for these areas. In most countries, special rules apply to areas like Southern California or the US East Coast, the Tokyo region, or the Ruhr area, reflecting the special circumstances of these regions. This generally requires analysis that goes well beyond the national level and takes into account the role and the discretionary flexibility of local authorities and regional government.
Another approach is to focus on national rules, on the assumption that they represent an average or at least a minimum standard that must be universally