Absolutely Sensible Thought That Seems To Violate Most People's Intuition

Commenting on the Gibson guitar raid

I'm confused by the ban on Brazilian rosewood. According to the Wikipedia article, [Brazilian rosewood]

is found only in Brazil, from the eastern forests of Bahia to Rio de Janeiro. It is threatened by habitat loss, since most of its habitat has been converted to farmland. Due to its endangered status, it was CITES-listed on Nov. 6 1992 in Appendix I (the most protected), and illegal to trade.

It grows in a specific area but is threatened because most of this habitat has been converted to farmland? And the solution is to ban trade in the wood, making it of no economic value? How is this supposed to preserve the habitat? Wouldn't that be an excellent reason to go ahead and convert the rest of the habitat to farmland, growing something that would be of economic value? I just don't get the logic there. Wouldn't it make more sense to have a world market in Brazilian rosewood, a natural product both beautiful and prized for its resonant qualities in musical instruments? Wouldn't that make it very desirable to create plantations devoted to growing rosewood so you could sell it into that international market? Wouldn't that result in a lot more rosewood? Surely a valuable product like rosewood would be a higher value use of the land than as mere farmland?

Here is the same idea from a different venue.  Might be more polar bears left if people wanted one for breakfast


  1. Matt:

    Why are cows and chickens not endangered species? We're killing vast numbers of them every single year. Or corn? Good Lord...virtually everything we eat in the United States is, one way or another, made out of corn...plus our plastics are made from corn (and everything we don't eat is made out of plastic) and a whole bunch of our motor fuel is made out of corn. Ohmygod!!! There's no way we're not running out of corn, the way we use the stuff up!!! Save the corn!!!


    I remember when the aphorism was "X doesn't grow on trees, you know", to refer to anything of which the supply was limited by something other than our demand for it.

    Know what, enviroweenies? WOOD LITERALLY DOES GROW ON TREES!

  2. caseyboy:

    If you want more of it, monetize it. Enjoyed the video.

  3. Evil Red Scandi:

    I'd agree wholeheartedly, although their is a caveat - when people are down to sustenance-level survival issues, which happens often in poor countries, they will take the extremely short-sighted approach and destroy a valuable and limited natural resource for tomorrow's meal with no considerations of future benefits. It's important to remember that what's rational depends on your ability to live day-to-day.

    That being said, I think that more and freer markets would do more to alleviate world poverty and prevent the above situation and that government bans just create black markets that often just add violence and mayhem without actually solving the problem. I just don't think that it's always as simplistic as you make it out to be.

  4. Evil Red Scandi:

    And apparently I'm having Homophone Fail Monday in my post above. Lack of caffeine, I guess.

  5. will:

    Sounds good to me!

    This strategy wouldn't work for animals or plants that, for some reason, can't be farmed commercially. Like if they require too much space to roam around in? But for trees, sign me up!

  6. Mike C.:

    That video cracks me up every time I see it.

  7. Hasdrubal:

    You have to be careful that you don't create or exacerbate a tragedy of the commons when you commercialize something, though. Commercialization did nothing good for the whales, or for any ocean species I can think of for that matter. I don't know the specifics of Brazil's rosewood forests, a property rights method might work through selling off the land to investors who are interested in ensuring a long term stream of revenue. Or it might not, if the owners can't keep "poachers" from cutting on their land behind their back, or if the revenue isn't high enough to make an investment in sustainable forestry pay more than clear cutting and farming. Elinore Ostrom-style communal rules might work, but most of the successful cases of those took generations to develop, or happened in areas with strong rule of law where different interests could develop a working contractual relationship with the weight of the courts to back it up.

    Commercialization might work, but it's not a guaranteed magic bullet. The devil is in the details, and neither the government nor utility maximizing independent actors are guaranteed to not muck them up.

  8. steve:

    The enviornmental movement is soo dominated by socialists that private solutions to enviornmental problems are fought as robustly as the problems themselves. This is producing grave damage to the cause of enviornmentalism. Not simply from a PR stand point but from the effectiveness of solutions adopted as this case illustrates.