MCViewPoint

Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

Privatize Migratory Birds – Econlib

Posted by M. C. on December 12, 2022

Yet, the privately owned cow never came within a million miles of extinction; in contrast, this was almost the fate of the buffalo, until its privatization was legally allowed.

https://www.econlib.org/privatize-migratory-birds/

By:

 Walter Block

My motto is: if it moves, privatize it; if it doesn’t move, privatize it. Since everything either moves or does not move, the logical implication is, privatize everything.

Why this radical call for privatization? Simple. There are only three ways to deal with property: government ownership, non-ownership, and private ownership. The problem with the first is exemplified by the failure of the USSR, East Germany, and North Korea. Without market prices, which can only emanate on the basis of private property, central planning is flying blind. It cannot grasp scarcities and alternative costs. It has no rational way of determining whether railroad ties should be made of steel or platinum, for example, or whether the new road should go through or around the mountain.

Non-ownership, in turn, is subject to the tragedy of the commons. If no one owns it, the resource is all too quickly dissipated. Perhaps the most dramatic illustration of this debilitation is a comparison of the fate of the cow and the buffalo. Biologists will of course cavil at this, but to the average person (including me) they are all but the same animal. They are both big, smelly, dirty, hairy. If you run into either of them, in the absence of a tank, you’ll come off second best. Yet, the privately owned cow never came within a million miles of extinction; in contrast, this was almost the fate of the buffalo, until its privatization was legally allowed.

Migratory birds are no exception to this general rule in favor of privatization. The challenge arises from the fact that they are a fugitive resource. The buffalo are too, of course, but the benefits of privatizing them clearly and radically outweighs the costs of so doing. It is entirely possible, at least given the present level of technology, that this will prove to also be the case of migratory birds. But it might not be. Would this undermine my motto? Not at all. After all, with present technology, the costs of privatizing land on the Moon or Mars- to say nothing of the other heavenly bodies in our solar system- are obviously vastly greater than any benefits we might possibly derive thereby. If not today, perhaps one day, technology will enable us to economically privatize both birds and planets.

See the rest here

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