Here is my answer:
To my knowledge, Rand didn’t spend much time specifically on the issue of pollution. But given that her political philosophy is grounded in the principle of individual rights, it logically follows that she would believe that anti-pollution laws have their place in a free, industrial society.
And she did have a few things to say explicitly on pollution and the government’s role:
As far as the issue of actual pollution is concerned, it is primarily a scientific, not a political, problem. In regard to the political principle involved: if a man creates a physical danger or harm to others, which extends beyond the line of his own property, such as unsanitary conditions or even loud noise, and if this is proved, the law can and does hold him responsible.
Rand also had a balanced view of pollution vs. the benefits of industrial activity, which I think is consistent with the views of most Americans:
City smog and filthy rivers are not good for men (though they are not the kind of danger that the ecological panic-mongers proclaim them to be). This is a scientific, technological problem—not a political one—and it can be solved only by technology. Even if smog were a risk to human life, we must remember that life in nature, without technology, is wholesale death.
These quotes are taken from the sections Pollution and Ecology/Environmental Movement of the Ayn Rand Lexicon.
Some half a century ago, at the dawn of the Environmentalist movement (then labeled “ecology”), Rand predicted that Americans would clean up the air and rivers and so on, but would never do so at the expense of their standard of living, as the “back-to-nature” crowd demanded. Since then, great strides have been made against industrial pollution, even as Americans’ living standards continued to increase. Although the ideological Environmentalists continue their anti-industrial campaign (with some success), Rand’s “take” on pollution has largely become the mainstream, in my view.
A Humanist Approach to Environmental Issues—Alex Epstein
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