Species protected by law are being hunted to extinctionaround around the world for pockets of profit. We know this. What we do not know is that the cause and effect is the opposite of what we assume.
We may blame greed, but where did the greed come from? The more rare a commodity is, the more money it will bring. We know this. It is far more rare in availability when it is illegal. We fail to understand this.
We can blame Capitalism. Well, no we can’t. Poachers do not generally participate in any sort of Capitalist system. They simply harvest the land and exchange it for currency to feed their family. That is Free Market, perhaps, but no more so than the economy of every tribe and civilization since the beginning of time. They have no access to a banking system, and cannot leverage their enterprise or its assets to buy anything they don’t have cash for. They are an underground economy based on criminal fear at best, and live in economies that have no ability to acquire wealth through Capital. And these limited options are why there are so many poachers — lack of Capitalism.
But don’t take my word for it. Ask an American Bison. Slaughtered by the millions through the target practice of railroad tourists, they were almost extinct. But something happened before it could be made an illegal commodity — someone discovered they could “Capitalize” on how tasty they are. Exotic yet palatable, farms replaced zoos as the means of advancing the numbers. Zoos feed a few with little return and have no incentive for more than a token mating pair and occasional calf. But monetized, the scale was limited by real demand and not merely idealistic preservation for its own sake.
So what is the more effective model for saving a species from the brink? Government intervention or Free Market Capitalism? Government has had some success, after all — in making unlawful people rich through this or that prohibition (including the Kennedy Dynasty) and employing tens of thousands in a prison sector overrun by petty offenders, users or sellers of drugs arguably less dangerous than alcohol. What of rare plants and animals? In some parts of the world, the fastest and surest way to bring any species closer to extinction is to “protect” it.
On the other hand, Capitalism has the capability to create new markets or bring what would otherwise be unobtainable goods to the masses. There is a lot more money (and market stability) in mass commodities than rare items sold at higher profit to the few. A penny on every roll of toilet paper in a town comes out to be far greater than all the profit on all the luxury cars. And it can’t be done by a bunch of poachers dodging the law — it takes a system that support entrepreneurial pursuits. In other words, Capitalism. We’re talking cash registers instead of back door deals, which one would THINK would be a ka-ching for the government as well … as legal things tend to be taxable.
And contrary to all the propaganda from people who don’t understand Capitalism, such a plan is SUSTAINABLE. Survival of the fittest company means survival of the tastiest species. More than a few logging companies voluntarily replant to ensure future generations — not just for hippy smiles, but the hardwood reality of supply and demand.
Pray to Mother Gaia all you want, but this really is about the unavoidable laws of supply and demand. Someone making a quick buck doesn’t care about ecological doom — and that is the opposite of what a Capitalist wants. If there is long-term potential because demand is continuous rather than a few big hits under the authorities’ radar, it is in everyone’s best interest to go overboard to protect, preserve, and even nurture a natural commodity. This is a Capitalist’s business plan, not a zoologist’s dream or a politician’s wishful thinking.
The choice is not to protect or not protect. The choice is to have people eat a bowl of endangered whatever on the sly from those who are banking on stolen time, or to franchise the little fellas right off the endangered list.