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Buffalo Hunt: International Trade and the Virtual Extinction of the North American Bison

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  • M. Scott Taylor

Abstract

In the 16th century, North America contained 25-30 million buffalo; by the late 19th century less than 100 remained. While removing the buffalo east of the Mississippi took settlers over 100 years, the remaining 10 to 15 million buffalo on the Great Plains were killed in a punctuated slaughter in a little more than 10 years. I employ theory, data from international trade statistics, and first person accounts to argue that the slaughter on the plains was initiated by a foreign-made innovation and fueled by a foreign demand for industrial leather. Ironically, the ultimate cause of this sad chapter in American environmental history was of European, and not American, origin.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 12969.

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Date of creation: Mar 2007
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12969

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  1. Robert T. Deacon & Henning Bohn, 2000. "Ownership Risk, Investment, and the Use of Natural Resources," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(3), pages 526-549, June.
  2. Copeland,B.R. & Scott Taylor,M., 2003. "Trade, growth and the environment," Working papers 10, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems.
  3. Brian R. Copeland & M. Scott Taylor, 2009. "Trade, Tragedy, and the Commons," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(3), pages 725-49, June.
  4. Sherwin Rosen & Kevin M. Murphy & Jose A. Scheinkman, 1993. "Cattle Cycles," NBER Working Papers 4403, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. James A. Brander & M. Scott Taylor, 1995. "International Trade and Open Access Renewable Resources: The Small Open Economy Case," NBER Working Papers 5021, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Carlos, Ann M. & Lewis, Frank D., 1993. "Indians, the Beaver, and the Bay: The Economics of Depletion in the Lands of the Hudson's Bay Company, 1700–1763," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 53(03), pages 465-494, September.
  7. Ann M. Carlos & Frank D. Lewis, 1999. "Property Rights, Competition and Depletion in the Eighteenth-Century Canadian Fur Trade: The Role of the European Market," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 32(3), pages 705-728, May.
  8. Farrow, Scott, 1995. "Extinction and market forces: two case studies," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 13(2), pages 115-123, May.
  9. Brander, James A & Taylor, M Scott, 1998. "The Simple Economics of Easter Island: A Ricardo-Malthus Model of Renewable Resource Use," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(1), pages 119-38, March.
  10. Besley, Timothy, 1995. "Property Rights and Investment Incentives: Theory and Evidence from Ghana," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(5), pages 903-37, October.
  11. Petra Moser, 2012. "Innovation without Patents: Evidence from World’s Fairs," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 55(1), pages 43 - 74.
  12. McAusland, Carol, 2008. "Trade, politics, and the environment: Tailpipe vs. smokestack," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 55(1), pages 52-71, January.
  13. Allen, Robert C. & Keay, Ian, 2004. "Saving the Whales: Lessons from the Extinction of the Eastern Arctic Bowhead," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 64(02), pages 400-432, June.
  14. Lueck, Dean, 2002. "The Extermination and Conservation of the American Bison," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 31(2), pages S609-52, June.
  15. Lopez, Ramon, 1998. "The Tragedy of the Commons in Cote d'Ivoire Agriculture: Empirical Evidence and Implications for Evaluating Trade Policies," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 12(1), pages 105-31, January.
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Cited by:
  1. Coate, Stephen & Knight, Brian, 2009. "Pet Overpopulation: An Economic Analysis," Working Papers 09-10, Cornell University, Center for Analytic Economics.
  2. Jean-Christophe Bureau & Sébastien Jean, 2013. "Trade liberalization in the bio-economy: coping with a new landscape," Agricultural Economics, International Association of Agricultural Economists, vol. 44(s1), pages 173-182, November.
  3. Giuseppe Francesco Gori & Luca Lambertini, 2012. "Trade Liberalisation between Asymmetric Countries with Environmentally Concerned Consumers," Working Paper Series 40_12, The Rimini Centre for Economic Analysis.

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