Tragedy of the Commons, Solution: Property Rights
From today's WSJ, an editiorial "Save the Fish" about the false scare from junk science reports that we will run out of fish by 2048. From the WSJ:
"Extrapolation of any trend far enough into the future can bring surprising results (remember Dow 36,000?). And at least one professor of marine sciences has called this particular extrapolation "mind-bogglingly stupid."
What's the problem with fish? Well, unlike domesticated animals, no one owns them. (MP: When is the last time you heard of a pending shortage of Holstien cattle, chickens or German Shepards?) Government programs to set catch limits and so reduce fishing effort are a constant source of friction with fishermen, who are always pushing for higher limits than regulators feel are advisable. It's not that fishermen want to decimate their cash crop. But the system is set up to encourage them to push for whatever they can get, now.
There's a better way. Private property rights: adopting a system of individual, tradeable quotas."
See a related, recent article by NY Times columnist John Tierney, "Where the Tuna Roam:"
"If 19th-century researchers had kept tabs on buffalo hunts, they could have drawn a similar graph of doom. And if they wanted their study to make front-page headlines, they could have warned that overhunting doomed future inhabitants of the Great Plains to live in a world without fresh meat.
Today that sounds silly. You can get all the beef -- or buffalo meat -- you want from Western ranchers.
A quiet revolution has occurred in certain American waters, like the halibut fishery of Alaska, and in countries like Canada, Iceland, New Zealand and Australia. Fishermen have discovered the same tool used by settlers on the Great Plains: property rights."