Baxter Black: The price of ivory
February 21, 2014
On the north side of Denver abides the city of Commerce City. There, last fall, U. S. officials dumped millions of dollars worth of ivory tusks, carvings, and jewelry into a steel rock crusher and pulverized it into dust and tiny chips.
The officials' objective was to reduce the slaughter of tens of thousands of elephants each year.
ECONOMICS 1: What happens to a commodity's demand and price when you reduce its availability? DUH…The price goes up!
For instance, cattle prices are at an all time high because…the U.S. cow herd is down to its lowest since 1952. Average horse prices have plunged due to the elimination of horse slaughter, which flooded the country with unwanted horses.
Ivory's value is primarily intrinsic, meaning it serves no essential purpose, though it does work as a forklift and weapon when still on the elephant. That's unlike other precious stones and metals like diamonds, silver, gold and uranium, which can be used in all sort of engineering processes, high tech manufacturing and dentistry, in addition to jewelry. The value of these minerals is also increased because there is a finite amount on our planet.
So how can we help the ivory problem? Flood the market, that's how.
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Elephants continue to reproduce, thus manufacturing ivory. How 'bout increasing the number of elephants? A great example of this solution is the salmon industry. Twenty years ago wild salmon from Alaskan fisheries was priced out of the range of the average family. Then the world started "farming salmon" commercially. Now it is readily available.
Would elephant farming be practical? If people want ivory, why not make it available? Maybe grow your own elephant in your backyard. Let capitalism work.
Look at the economics of the illegal drug business. As long as selling marijuana is illegal, the price will be high. Make it available to everyone, as it appears to be doing, and the price will get lower as the numbers of users get higher!
Another solution would be to encourage the farming of alternative sources for ivory; narwhals, hippos, walruses, etc. Workable, you say? Stick up a wanted poster in Mt. Pleasant, Texas, for tusks from feral pigs and wild boars and turn the red necks loose! In twenty years people will be farming hogs for ivory. Make pigs a three-purpose animal; meat, hunting and jewelry.
I can see it now, our own cable network show; we'll call it…The Pig Dynasty!