The Verge tells us that the US government plans to send a devastating message to elephant poachers by… destroying the US stockpile of seized ivory?
Because, um… what?
Usually, when someone proposes doing something kind of economically naïve, I get the thought process behind it even if I disagree with it. Like, okay, minimum wage: even if you buy the argument that a rise in minimum wage means a rise in unemployment, you get the thought process: there are these poor people, you’re trying to get them more money. Check.
And indeed, while I’m sure that the cost of elephant ivory is somewhat increased by governmental crackdown on elephant poaching, you’d understand if the government were going to try to make poachers less common by just cracking down on poaching.
But I genuinely do not understand what it is that anyone hopes to gain by this. Do they imagine that poachers dream that eventually that stockpile of ivory will be… what, given back to the poachers? Nothing makes any sense.
I would have said, “Sell the ivory stockpile at below-market prices.” I note that this potentially leaves the poachers needing to kill more elephants to maintain their livelihood, though.
Tyler Cowen links to an article suggesting the more sophisticated strategy of basically holding the stockpile hostage to elephant population: threatening to sell it if the population dips too much, which may have fewer perverse incentives.