tragedy of the commons

The Economics of Ecology

The summer of 2002 was a drought year in the Klamath Basin.

An estimated 70,000 salmon died that year after the Bush administration "ignored its own federal biologists and divert more water from the Klamath River for farm irrigation". According to documents, the decision was made because the farmers generally voted Republican. The Bush Administration then went on to order that water continue to be diverted for another eight years.

Only 24,000 fall chinook spawned naturally in the Klamath in 2004, followed by 27,000 last year.

The analysis from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service identified low water flows as a prime culprit in a major salmon kill on the Klamath River in 2002.
Because it takes several years for salmon to reach peak reproducing age, the effects of this huge fish-kill only started in 2005 when the National Marine Fisheries Service abbreviated the commercial salmon season. It cut the income of west coast fishermen "by 50 percent".
California and Oregon indian tribes, that have depended on salmon fishing for thousands of years, also had their fishing quotas cut back by as much as half.

It's easy to look at this example as an exception based on petty politics, but that would require you to overlook five centuries of political and economic policy.

When you look around the global environment today you will see nearly every animal species, large and small, in trouble. It doesn't matter if they live on land, water, or air.

Privatizing The Commons

"Virtually everything President Bush is doing to America is, at some level, related to privatization of our commons. Today we are witnessing the middle game portion of the Corporate Takeover of Everything Agenda. It scares me to imagine what the end-game will look like."
-Scott Silver, 2003

In 2006 the Democrats narrowly defeated Bush's attempts at selling 300,000 acres of public forest land to private interests. The reason given was to simply raise money to fill a budget gap.

"It kind of reminds me of selling off the 'back 40' to pay the rent. It's short-term thinking."

This certainly isn't the first time that Republicans have gone after the Commons, and it won't be the last.

What do we want from an economy?

(This was originally posted on DailyKos, where it was suggested that I post this here. It has been slightly edited.)

Unless you've been living under a rock you know that we are in an economic death spiral and that things will get worse before they get better. All things will pass, however, and unless things crater for good, we will eventually pull out and begin economic recovery, in one year or three or ten, and we will be ... well, where will we be? What are our economic goals? What do we want from an economy?