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Didn't Blackorby and...? have an article a while back which included other species in the welfare function? I think this work came out of the time he sat on the committee at UBC which approved (or not) experiments on animals.

Suppose blue whales have a rental value, R per whale. (the fun we get from watching them, or whatever). And suppose (because of diminishing Marginal Utility of watch blue whales, whatever, R is a decreasing function of the stock of blue whales K. So R=R(K). If R(.) satisfies the Inada(?) conditions, R(0)=infinity, it could never be optimal to extinct them? (Not sure if the Inada conditions hold for whale-watching. Maybe they hold for eating whales, which would have the same effect, because then B would be decreasing in the flow of whales caught?)

But, somehow, I get the feeling that my argument for saving the whales will just piss off the environmentalists even further.

What if I don't care about whale feelings?

Cost/benefit analysis of killing off a single species ignores the cumulative effect on the whole. With few exceptions, the extermination of a single species will never lead directly to catastrophic consequences, but if we kill/destroy/obliterate enough of the ecosystem, eventually it will have negative consequences for humans - like us dying off in large numbers.

It's interesting to note that if you killed off all the ants on the Earth, the consequences to the ecosystem would be immediate and catastrophic. On the other hand, if you killed off (or deported to Mars) all the humans, the health of the planetary ecosystem would immediately improve.

Frances,

For the purposes of promoting 'better' public policy, are you a big fan of bio-fraud? By bio-fraud, I mean deploying fraudulent science to promote aesthetic-environmental (sic) goals?

Do you agree with the idea that educated people with science degrees should deliberately mislead the public for the 'right cause', i.e., for their own good?


Linda, yes, late 80s/early 90s, Blackorby and usual suspects (Donaldson probably, Bossert?). I wasn't so wild about that particular paper because (as far as I remember) it depended crucially upon the assumption that a long life is better, whereas I tend to figure quality of life matters much more than length. I don't remember if it considered human welfare/animal welfare trade-offs, but I don't think so.

Nick, is that a way of adding precision to the conservation value concept or it an alternative kind of use value? In fact the economics as I've set them up are pretty hokey anyways because I'm pretty sure Japan subsidizes the whale industry much like we provide large subsidies to the Canadian fishing industry.

Westslope, bio-fraud strikes me as a risky strategy, but any researcher is going to pursue their research in a way that minimizes internal stress and cognitive dissonance.

Patrick, the whales/Greenpeace thing is just an excuse to talk about the implications of Stern and Singer for how cost benefit analysis is done.

Singer's point is it doesn't matter whether or not you care about whale feelings. I don't care about lots of humans feelings. But from an ethical point of view, if we accept that the right thing to do is the greatest good for the great number (some version of utilitarianism) why do only humans count? What moral reason is there for separating out human feelings from non-human feelings?

If ever there was a strategy to usher in a new Dark Ages, "@westslope" has found it. Yikes!

Has anybody polled blue whales and other cute mega-fauna on the virtues of regional nuclear war?

"Has anybody polled blue whales and other cute mega-fauna on the virtues of regional nuclear war?"

Not as such, but I did once make my Labrador Retriever watch Wargames (1983) with me.

As Spock would say, hunting Whales to extinction for pure decadence is illogical.

The nature human totalitarian ideology makes it all worse. Repeal the enlightment!

Considering the amount of subsidization of whaling, and lack of any significant demand for whale meat (http://assets.panda.org/downloads/economics_whaling_summ_report_final.pdf) it's quite possible that stopping whaling entirely would be a net benefit for everyone (well, except for the whalers, who'd have to find real jobs).

I think I did make a point about cost/benefit analysis: There is a danger in accounting for utility on parts of a larger whole that itself has value greater than the sum of its parts. And Singer is appealing to empathy many people simply do not or cannot afford to display, especially for species that are delicious, useful when dead, or aren't cuddly or otherwise endearing.

I see that the death of a baby beluga whale was front page news in Vancouver the other day. I wonder how many human Vancouverites would make the front page upon dying...a few no doubt, but not many.

The dissonance between the sadness at the death of the whale, and the fact that we still keep them penned up for our own amusement was so great that it even brought me into agreement with an editorial in The Province of all places.

The start of this post reminded me of the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, with its whale created out of the thermonuclear missile.

It is trivial to show that, under certain assumptions, hunting blue whales to extinction makes economic sense.

Only in the short term. In the long term, there are no whales left, so nothing to get any economic value from.

This is the same with global warming. It makes sense economically, examining this year alone, to burn fossil fuels as much as the free market will allow. It does not make sense though, when you look 100 years from (or whatever the timescale is). So countries should have policies to mitigate this future risk, like cap and trade/carbon tax.

It's just the Tragedy of the Commons again.

I should also note that it is trivial to show that, under certain assumptions, hunting bloggers to extinction makes economic sense. As does building a pile of rusted out cars to the moon - its all in the assumptions!

Linda and Frances:

The paper you are referring to is Blackorby and Donaldson: "Pigs and Guinea Pigs: A Note on Animal Exploitation," Economic Journal 1992. Sorry that I don't have an un-gated link.

Whaling has gone from excessively high exploitation rates to prolonged moratoria with little or no firm foundation in biological science.

It would seem that aesthetic considerations are at the forefront of International Whaling Commission deliberations. And these same aesthetic considerations are foremost in the minds of those who would impose whaling bans on nations such as Japan, Norway or on aboriginal populations in places like Canada and the USA.

However, I do sympathize the notion that human predators cannot sustainably harvest whale populations. Look at Canada. Our generous social welfare has bankrolled the overfishing of major fish stocks in both coastal areas. It also contributed to overfishing in inland waters but those stories have not grabbed headlines like the collapse of Northern Cod and Pacific salmon stocks.

" It is trivial to show that, under certain assumptions, hunting blue whales to extinction makes economic sense.

Only in the short term. In the long term, there are no whales left, so nothing to get any economic value from."

no, the idea is that you "invest" the proceeds from harvesting the whales into assets that have a higher interest rate. These assets continue to produce long after the whales are gone at a higher rate than you would have gotten from whales (because whales grow so slowly). Therefore hunting the whales to extinction is trivial because the whales, if thought of as "assets", have a very low rate of growth/interest rate.

Option value can conceptually exceed the near-term benefits of harvesting an animal or plant to extirpation.

The time you spend at the office may be the most stressful part of your day, but it doesn't have to be. You have a greater ability to shape your office environment than you may realize.

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