October 9, 2017 | David F. Coppedge

Scientists Discover Liberty Works

The incontrovertible leftist bent in academia once in awhile runs against facts of human nature. Studies show individual liberty is often better than government or globalist control.

Without doubt, humans do some dastardly things to the planet: depleting resources, polluting, and causing extinction. The question is what to do about it. Those with a leftist bent tend to have a knee-jerk reaction to any problem: big government or, even more ominous, global governance. Here are three recent studies that appear to contradict that intuitive reaction.

When residents take charge of their rainforests, fewer trees die (Science Daily). Researchers from Ohio State examined the situation in Guatemala where deforestation is of critical concern. What they found contradicts the impulse to have big government or the U.N. interfere. “When the government gives citizens a personal stake in forested land, trees don’t disappear as quickly and environmental harm slows down,” the article summarizes. That’s because landowners are more prone to protect the trees when they have pride of ownership. “What happens is you allocate property rights to groups of people — from 30 residents to hundreds of people — and they organize themselves and manage the land,” one researcher said. The worst results came from lands controlled by distant managers.

Though the timber industry doesn’t disappear in these rainforests, fast and indiscriminate removal of trees subsides while sustainable forestry increases. These arrangements in Guatemala also have led to a rise in non-timber business, including ecotourism and harvesting, and sales of plants including palm fronds used in floral arrangements, Sohngen said.

Banning shark fin soup in the US is bad for shark conservation (New Scientist). Sharks are imperiled. People are cutting off their fins and letting them die so that some people can have exotic soup. This must stop! Government must ban shark fin soup! Perhaps that would be the first reaction of do-gooders in academia, but New Scientist sees the law of unintended consequences at work: “A proposed US ban on the sale of shark fins could backfire and make life worse for some of the planet’s most imperilled species, says Lesley Evans Ogden.”

It’s a seemingly counterintuitive requirement for a conservation measure designed to combat not just inhumane treatment, but unnecessary waste. The risk is that sustainable US shark catches will decline and unsustainable ones in other nations will take up the slack. And those fisheries are more likely to be catching species of shark that are facing extinction.

What’s more, a US ban, assuming fishermen elsewhere don’t fill the supply gap, would barely impact global shark mortality. The country produces about 1 per cent of the shark fins sent for global trade, and buys in 0.2 per cent from this market place (some being US fins that were processed abroad).

“You’re taking away the livelihood… of people that were fishing sustainably and doing it right, and possibly giving increased market share to those that are doing it wrong,” says Hueter. He advocates stiffer penalties for lawbreakers caught finning, and favours replacement legislation in development: the Sustainable Shark Trade Act of 2017.

‘Keep it local’ approach more effective than government schemes at protecting rainforest (Phys.org). Similar to the first story, this study concerns Amazon rainforests and was conducted by UK and Peruvian teams.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge, the University of East Anglia (UEA) and the Peruvian Ministry of Environment assessed the effectiveness of different approaches to conservation in the Peruvian Amazon between 2006 and 2011. They found that while all were effective at protecting the rainforest compared with non-protected areas of land, the areas protected by local and indigenous communities were on average more effective than those protected by the government.

Studies such as these should inform policy makers to avoid the common assumption that government control is the best way to stop environmental damage. When individuals have a stake in the sustainability of their land, and when their livelihood depends on it, they are likely to protect it better than bureaucrats in a distant office might. These issues are complex, and one approach may not fit every situation. But as William Bradford discovered in the Plymouth colonies, private property – not socialism – usually provides the best solution for avoiding the “tragedy of the commons” (see Prager University video).

Questions to Consider:

Is there a better way to stop the perpetrators of illegal poaching of rhino horns, elephant ivory, and shark fins than trying to catch them in the act and punish them?

What is the impact of the U.N. declaring more and more places “World Heritage” sites? Who would likely provide the best management of these places?

Should the federal government divest its vast holdings in the western US back to state and local control? (see WND article).

What is the best balance between private property rights and public access, such as in national parks? What criteria should govern the decisions?


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