Harvesting to Extinction: Is It Socially Rational?
AbstractThis paper presents a critique of the neoclassical view of the optimal use of renewable resources and offers an alternative view based on the method of classical thermodynamics. The presentation is forwarded via the issue of harvesting to extinction. Based on simple models, the traditional theory suggests that society would benefit from wiping out any renewable resource whose intrinsic growth rate, though positive, is smaller than the social rate of time preference. The latter is the rate society is using to discount its future benefits and costs. To bypass this ecologically implausible outcome, the simplistic assumptions have been modified in various ways. For example, either the costs or the benefits of harvesting have been made to depend on the stock of the resource as well as on the yield. The modifications offered make society less prone to wipe out resources intentionally, but they still disregard a more fundamental difficulty: The traditional theory is not consistent with the second law of thermodynamics; it describes a process that defies the second law, which no known system is able to be undergoing. No doubt, the theory should be challenged first and foremost on this ground, but none of the offered modifications is capable of annulling this inconsistency. A deeper change is needed because the social values of the resource as perceived by a society that behaves in manners consistent with the second law and as defined by the traditional theory necessarily differ. The paper identifies the socially consistent value and shows that harvesting to extinction is never optimal socially. Were society to follow the socially inconsistent value, it would always underestimate the importance of self-sustained resources. However, the unlikely refutability of the second law turns this possibility and the socially favored extinctions into arguable outcomes of an untenable theory rather than undesirable outcomes of a sound theory. Potentially growing renewable resources are wiped out in real life for various reasons, but when they are preyed to extinction, their unfortunate fate is an outcome of the dynamics of a socially unregulated system rather than a social objective coming to fruition. Copyright Kluwer Academic Publishers 2002
Download InfoIf you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
Bibliographic InfoArticle provided by Springer in its journal Journal of Bioeconomics.
Volume (Year): 4 (2002)
Issue (Month): 2 (May)
Contact details of provider:
Web page: http://www.springerlink.com/link.asp?id=103315
extinction; maximum sustainable yield; renewable resource; discounted value; current value; time preference; steady state;
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Amir, Shmuel, 1995. "Welfare maximization in economic theory: Another viewpoint," Structural Change and Economic Dynamics, Elsevier, vol. 6(3), pages 359-376, August.
- Plourde, Charles, 1979. "Diagrammatic representations of the exploitation of replenishable natural resources: Dynamic iterations," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 6(2), pages 119-126, June.
- Daly, Herman E., 1987. "The economic growth debate: What some economists have learned but many have not," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 14(4), pages 323-336, December.
- Daly, Herman E., 1997. "Georgescu-Roegen versus Solow/Stiglitz," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(3), pages 261-266, September.
- Brown, Gardner, Jr, 1974. "An Optimal Program for Managing Common Property Resources with Congestion Externalities," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(1), pages 163-73, Jan.-Feb..
- Amir, Shmuel, 1994. "The role of thermodynamics in the study of economic and ecological systems," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 10(2), pages 125-142, July.
- Plourde, C G, 1970. "A Simple Model of Replenishable Natural Resource Exploitation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 60(3), pages 518-22, June.
- Hartman, Richard, 1976. "The Harvesting Decision When a Standing Forest Has Value," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 14(1), pages 52-58, March.
- Clark, Colin W, 1973. "Profit Maximization and the Extinction of Animal Species," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 81(4), pages 950-61, July-Aug..
- Neher, Philip A., 1974. "Notes on the Volterra-Quadratic fishery," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 8(1), pages 39-49, May.
- Michel, P., 1980.
"On the Transversality Condition in Infinite Horizon Optimal Problems,"
Cahiers de recherche
8024, Universite de Montreal, Departement de sciences economiques.
- Michel, Philippe, 1982. "On the Transversality Condition in Infinite Horizon Optimal Problems," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(4), pages 975-85, July.
- Fisher, Anthony C. & Krutilla, John V., 1974. "Valuing long run ecological consequences and irreversibilities," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 1(2), pages 96-108, August.
- Solow, Robert M, 1986. " On the Intergenerational Allocation of Natural Resources," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 88(1), pages 141-49.
- Cropper, M. L., 1988. "A note on the extinction of renewable resources," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 15(1), pages 64-70, March.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Guenther Eichhorn) or (Christopher F. Baum).
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.