Thursday, September 26, 2013

Wait, what? We Have to KILL Elephants to Save Them?

A U.S. Army major is famously alleged to have said that, "In order to save the village, we had to destroy it."  He was talking about Ben Tre.  Okay, but that was dumb.

The U.S. has decided that the way to stop poaching and killing elephants for their ivory is to... wait for it... make ivory as rare, expensive, and valuable as possible.  We are going to destroy a huge amount of ivory.  And of course that will save the elephants, right.

Consider what doing the opposite would do.  Sell all that ivory, and encourage all other holders of stockpiles to do the same.  The result would be a dramatic decline in ivory prices.  A huge decline.  A decline large enough that....wait for it.... poaching might actually stop.

The effect of our actual policy will be to make poaching much more valuable.

As is so often the case, the whole point is to make rich white people feel good about themselves.  The fact that it harms the elephants we say we care about is just collateral damage.

Killing elephants is wrong (though of course it may be more complex than that).  Crushing the ivory will result in the killing of more elephants, not fewer.  How could this possibly be a good  policy?


  1. Well according to this, the show of it could affect demand. Interesting to consider at least.

  2. The statists also reason that a glut of legitimate ivory in the market will make it easier for smugglers to disguise their illicit ivory. The fatal flaw in this logic is the premise that enforcement efforts against smugglers has any significant effect.


Do you have suggestions on where we could find more examples of this phenomenon?