Croker Sack

"Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard." — Henry Louis Mencken (1880-1956)

Monday, December 06, 2004

Cost is no obstacle unless you pay it

An editorial in today’s New York Times offers a typically adolescent argument against the federal government’s recent policy choices related to protecting salmon in west coast states.

Here is the concluding paragraph:

The administration offers endless justifications for its proposals, chiefly the insupportable claim that both dam removal and habitat protection would exact an unacceptable economic price. It also promises mitigating measures, including technological fixes to help the fish over and around the dams, and more "focused" habitat protection, albeit in a much smaller area than the fish's historical range. But clearly the administration's heart isn't in it. The underlying message here is that commercial interests come first, salmon second, even if history suggests that the two can comfortably coexist.

If one lives in the eastern states, destroying dams used to enable river navigation, to produce electricity, and to irrigate farmland in the Pacific Northwest probably does seem to be an acceptable economic price to pay. When you don’t pay the price, cost is no obstacle to achieving what you want.

Likewise, one whose property is unaffected by restrictions on its use may believe that greater restrictions are acceptable. When the property isn’t yours, and you aren’t required to compensate the owner for taking his property for use as a public nature preserve, hardly any restrictions would seem unreasonable.

The really odd thing about this editorial’s conclusion is in its last sentence. Having criticized the federal government for giving priority to economic development rather than preservation of salmon stocks, the editorialist claimed “history suggests that the two can comfortably coexist.”

What history could he be talking about? The very dams he wants to destroy are part of the commercial development which he claims can comfortably coexist with the salmon.

The economic development of land in the west is the very thing the editorialist wants to prohibit in the name of saving the salmon. He might be comfortable with his preferred policies, but then he doesn’t live in the areas which would be affected.


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