Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Mulish Stewardship

Again with the idiosyncratic definitions, this guy. Stewardship is a stab at mimicking a euvoluntary exchange when one of the transacting parties is unable or unwilling to haggle the terms of an exchange for one reason or another. The wards of a steward could be minors, infirm, comatose, mentally vacant, or brute animals. For that matter, 'tis common usage to assign stewardship over land, intellectual property, or other intangibles.

Over at Sweet Talk, I followed up yesterday's post with some musings about environmental degradation that often gets a lot of talk, but not so much conspicuous accounting (by this, I mean that many journalists and activists balk at the notion of attaching a dollar value to the environment, even though the BLM and USGS do indeed provide these estimates). My question is this: is stewardship euvoluntary? There must be some price at which keeping a species alive can no longer be justified. But since necessarily one party is unable to advocate on its own behalf, what is the just way to find that margin?

Majority rule probably isn't very good. People with no resources directly on the line have no incentive to vote prudently. How about fiat rule by elites? Is that any better? Why or why not?

Economists like to flog the idea of private (or quasi-private) ownership of wild herds. Assigning residual claims to a human foists all the good private incentives where they can be calculated more-or-less accurately with all that lovely skin in the game that keeps folks honest. But with global-scale threats, this is... well, let's call it "problematic" to assign residual rights to a single individual. In lieu of that, what's the next best way to solve the knowledge problem when we've got looming stewardship issues for the several species under the threat of extinction?

For those exchanges that can never be euvoluntary, it seems wise to seek robust surrogate pricing methods. Primum non nocere bleeds the coffers dry, laissez faire soaks the veldt in innocent blood. Surely there is a better way. Surely some reckoning is at hand.

1 comment:

  1. It seems this post is primarily about species other than humans, but the first paragraph raises the possibility, not only of parties unable to haggle over prices, but those who may be unwilling. Aside from "brute animals," the list of "wards" seem to include minors, inform, comatose and mentally vacant. Am I to assume these categories other than the brute animals, are understood to be human? If so, are these humans understood to include a mix of unable and unwilling, or only unable? If there are humans who are unwilling to haggle, who are they? Is there conceivably a third alternative that is neither haggling nor being a ward of a steward, or is willingness and ability haggle in the brute jungle of commerce the price that must be paid for a modicum of independence and dignity? What of the humans (and I count myself in their number) who can't be described as devoid of either the ability or willingness to haggle, but nevertheless show a pronounced reluctance to being drawn into such pissing contests. Are we seen by the euvoluntarists as somehow lacking in character?


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