The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Wednesday, May 21, 2003  

When Proved Wrong, Just Say You Were (Sort Of) Right All Along

David Frum, who apparently fancies himself something of an amateur, albeit but very vocal and very public, economist, has a "free-market" solution to the problem of declining fish stocks. (See also: "I Think We're Eating Too Much Fish," The Rittenhouse Review, May 16.)

Herewith a brief excerpt from Frum's May 19 post at National Review Online:

I don't know about you, but I've been worrying about this story about the depletion of major fish stocks: I suppose I feel rather responsible, because I do eat quite a lot of fish. Here's my standing on one feet suggestion: ban all existing fishing fleets from the North American continental shelf. Then auction fishing rights off the Atlantic coast to a single purchaser for each major species, ditto for the Pacific, and ditto for the Gulf of Mexico coast. These rights should run for a long time -- 20 years at least, maybe longer -- to give the buyer every reason to worry about his future returns. The reserve price should be set high enough so that the purchaser could not earn a profit by fishing existing stocks to extinction. If the minimum bid were set high enough, he'd only earn a profit if he could land more fish in 10, 12, and 14 years than are available today -- and the only way to do that would be to curtail his current catch sufficiently to encourage regrowth in the outyears [sic].

Probably some competent economist can shoot all kinds of holes in this plan, but it is a suggestion -- and I'm not hearing many others.

Well, shoot holes they did -- "fish in a barrel" jokes apparently held in abeyance -- and the e-mail he received in response to his piece was, well, not exactly supportive or flattering, judging from his post at NRO today.

Yet Frum today has the gall to write:

We have to figure out a way to make wild species somebody’s property -- and if my scheme of long-term leases is faulty, it is at least a pointer to the right answer.

Says who? David Frum?

Readers, this is not an example of chutzpah, it's the very definition thereof.

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