Re: update on selling the oceans

Topics: Resources
29 Mar 1995

From: "DG Ervan Darnell"

>Cattle and hogs are generally branded and fenced. How would selling the
>oceans avoid the tragedy of the commons?

The kind of fish at issue, cod & haddock, have particular banks they spend
their whole lives in. Each bank that represents a separate population
should be sold as a whole. Even if the original allotment were suboptimal
in terms of actual migration patterns, the market would fix the problem by
one fish bank owner buying out his neighbor until a true "farm" had been
achieved. If it did not start this way, both would be sabotaging the other
and clearly the additional profit from capturing the true bank could buy out
the weaker player. This would benefit both companies, the ecology, and my
supper plate.

This approach would not work for whales though (since they swim the whole
length of an ocean). We need to wait for a techno fix to brand each
individual or something of the sort (individual radar tracking?). Ideally,
force people who want to harvest whales to farm them however they want, in
one damned huge aquarium if that's what it takes, maybe grow them in
nurseries and fit them with brain implants that hurt when the cross a magic
line (like invisible fences for dogs) so they stay in territorial waters and
can only be harvested there.

>Likewise, what mechanism would be used to enforce the property rights of the
>new owners?

The same that are used to protect cattle farmers now. They get to shoot
rustlers ;-) The government promises to protect their property as it does
any other in exchange for their taxes. The problem now is that the
protection is not applied because it is not clear who is in the right due to
lots of fuzzy regulation (and that regulation is deliberately made fuzzy to
violate past aggreements). With a single owner, it's perfectly clear. If
it is property, there is no changing the terms of the deed. Well, okay, the
government will impose regulation, but as bad as it is, regulation is
generally less burdensome that outright government management, in terms of
forcing misallocation.