In the late 1960s, new environmental policies emerged that attempted to reach predetermined pollution standards in a cost-effective way: i.e., the “standard-and-tax” approach proposed by William J. Baumol and Wallace E. Oates, and the permits market approach proposed by John Dales. This paper describes the early history of the two approaches, and compares them. Although today they refer to different traditions, namely Pigovian versus Coasean, and are often contrasted in the literature, these cost-effective solutions emerged at the same time and for the same reasons. First, they both tried to promote incentives-based policies against traditional regulations; second, they criticized the optimal Pigovian tax, which raised the contentious issue of measuring pollution damage. More broadly, they emerged as a kind of pragmatic compromise, fed by a common attempt to move toward more practical policies: reaching efficiency without optimality, while relying on standards whose setting is a matter for political decision.