Sometimes “free” is more expensive in the long term

On my Creepbook for Business feed, the following paid content appeared today;

This piqued my interest because I’ve long suspected that, if species preservation of the “big five” in Africa was agreed to be an important aim (excuse the pun), then making hunting an efficient and sustainable industry would be the most probable route to success.

Certainly, if observable results were something one took seriously, nearly every alternative that had been tried so far hasn’t worked effectively

Similarly, if we wanted to significantly reduce the impact of poaching of elephants and rhino for ivory, flooding the market with cheaper farmed ivory might well be the only solution.

I suppose there are two other alternatives; either raise the standard of living in sub-Saharan Africa to a level where there were plenty of other employment opportunities that didn’t involve killing elephants or persuade a billion Chinese people that ivory powder doesn’t cure bone tumours.

Ockham’s Razor suggests farming is the most likely solution.

I’m not an expert on the complexities of African hunting economics, politics and species protection so I’ll defer to others with more insight.

However, the link to ENergise REsources was intriguing. Firstly, that’s a really annoying capitalisation of the 2nd letters and secondly, who are they what are they all about?

From their website;

Ok, on the one hand it’s admirable that they are offering services pro bono to charities. On the other hand, they are clearly quite choosy about which charities they are going to help.

Which charities?

Basically, any that work in the fields of the Guardian’s favourite cause célèbres.

Exhibit A;

Exhibit B;

Exhibit C;

The website shows a list and the profiles of the current members (about 25 of them) and, frankly, there’s nary a single private sector worker amongst them. If you were a charity looking for some pro bono advice from an IT professional with exactly the same ideas and experience as every other IT professional who’s ever worked for you, you’ve come to the right place.

What’s really amusing though, is the unthinking acceptance of the Guardian/BBC/NY Times prioritisation of issues to be solved. If you hadn’t read the previous paragraphs on this page and I had asked you to write a list of the top 10 priorities for left wing charities, I imagine you’d have repeated nearly all the content on their website.

This is an alternative approach that they have not considered however;

Bjorn Lømborg’s Copenhagen Consensus.

Bill’s Opinion

The refreshing thing about the Copenhagen Consensus is their recognition that, when talking about about finite resources, environmentalists almost always forget that economic resources and human hours are also finite; a dollar spent on the solution to a problem cannot be spent on another problem. Similarly, an hour of your time spent on one solution can’t be re-spent somewhere else.

In fact, it’s worse than that; there are a myriad of potential solutions to the same problem, and logic states these should be prioritised by likely success and impact.

In effect, what the Copenhagen Consensus recognises that few others in the field do, or choose to ignore, is the concept of opportunity cost.

Once you apply that economic lens, our old friend Vilfredo Pareto can bring his ruler into play and measure which activities we should do first and which we should drop because they only feel nice rather than doing any good.

But if you really want to confirm that Lømborg is an outcome-driven, facts don’t care about your feelings sort of chap, sign up to the website; when you’re asked to select a country of residence, they list USA first, not Afghanistan.

This is a group that logical thinkers can get behind without having to suffer the ideological crap.

How refreshing.

2 Replies to “Sometimes “free” is more expensive in the long term”

  1. A kilo of rhino horn retails for multi megabucks. Even at the front line where it’s a thousand times cheaper, it’s eminently worth risking your life to poach. Now I have a very earnest conservationist friend who insists that a breeding programme won’t work. We won’t mention any names Gavin, it wouldn’t be fair. Although the rhino horn would be harvested painlessly and “sustainably” from living animals, the end user would reject the farmed product as being too prole. The high rollers would insist on “real” bush-bred poached horn. There is, as Louis Bromfield would have said, something in what my friend says.

    My view is that if the price comes down far enough, it won’t be worth risking your life to poach. As numerous commentators have mentioned, rhino deaths have accelerated every year since CITES. That was about forty years ago, and banning trade has obviously failed. Flooding the market with farmed rhino horn might be the answer. We won’t know until it’s tried.

    1. Thanks. That confirms (by anecdote not empirical data) my suspicion.
      Has there been any attempt to try it, do you know?

      Look at rare breed pigs/cattle etc.; the most successful attempts to preserve them are commercial.

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