How Can African Elephants Be Protected In A Free Market?

From: J
Sent: Thu 6/30/2016 6:30 PM
To: Walter Block
Subject: Ivory Trade


I am your run of the mill Anarcho-Capitalist, could you give me the 30 second polite dinnertime response for how one answers the question about how African Elephants can be protected in a free market?

Regards, J

Dear J:

The cow never came within a million miles of extinction, the buffalo almost did. Why? The former was always privately owned, the latter was not, until recently. This is the “tragedy of the commons”: when something is not privately owned, care is not taken in its behalf. The elephant is just a buffalo from an economic point of view with big ears and a funny looking nose. Here are some readings for you:

Davison, Dwight, Jay Mukherjee, David Simpson and Walter E. Block. 2014. “Preserving Species.” Dialogue, Issue 2;


Anderson and Hill, 1995; French, 2012; Lora, 2007; Kreuter and Platts, 1996; Simmons and Kreuter, 1989

Anderson, Terry L. and Peter J. Hill, Editors. 1995. Wildlife in the Marketplace. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield

French, Doug. 2012. “Property Means Preservation.” May 31;

Lora, Manuel. 2007. “If You Love Nature, Desocialize It.” May 10;

Kreuter, Urs P. and Linda E. Platts. 1996. “Why the Ivory Ban is Failing.”  Christian Science Monitor. March 20;

Simmons, Randy, and Kreuter, Urs P. 1989. “Herd Mentality: Banning Ivory Sales is No Way to Save the Elephant,” Policy Review, Issue 50, Fall, pp. 46-49;


Anderson and Hill, 1995; Benjamin, 2012; DiLorenzo, 1998; Malek, 2007; Simon, 1981, 1996

Anderson, Terry L. and Peter J. Hill, Editors. 1995. Wildlife in the Marketplace. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield

Benjamin, Daniel. 2012. “Bye, bye bison.” April 1;

States DiLorenzo: “It was also official government policy to slaughter as many buffalo as possible as a means of eventually starving out the Indians. It was not just the “tragedy of the commons” that was responsible for the near extinction of the American buffalo; it was official U.S. government policy.”

DiLorenzo, Thomas J. 1998. “The Feds versus the Indians.” The Free Market. January,
Volume 16, Number 1;

Malek, Ninos P. 2012. “To Protect and Conserve.” April 2;

Simon, Julian. 1981. The Ultimate Resource, Princeton: Princeton University Press

Simon, Julian. 1996. The Ultimate Resource II. Princeton University Press

Yablonski, Brian. 2007. “Bisonomics.” PERC Report. Volume 25, No.3, Fall;

Public Property is not ok (tragedy of the commons):

On the tragedy of the commons, see Block, 1999; Cordato, 2004; Hardin, 1968; Rothbard, 1982; Smith, 1981. For a critique of this insight, see Ostrom, 1990. For a rejoinder to Ostrom, 1990, see Block, 2011 and Jankovic and Block, 2016.

Block, Walter E. 1999. “Review Essay of Bethell, Tom, The Noblest Triumph: Property and Prosperity Through the Ages, New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1998,” in The Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics, Vol. 2, No. 3, Fall, pp. 65-84;;

Block, Walter E. 2011. Review essay of Ostrom, Elinor. 1990. Governing the commons: The evolution of institutions for collective action. Cambridge, UK and New York, NY: Cambridge University Press; in Libertarian Papers, Vol. 3, Art. 21

Cordato, Roy E. 2004. “Toward an Austrian theory of environmental economics.” The Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics, Vol. 7, No. 1, Spring: 3–16;

Hardin, Garrett. 1968. “Tragedy of the Commons,” Science, 162: 1243-1248.

Jankovic, Ivan and Walter E. Block. 2016. “Tragedy of the Partnership: A Critique of Elinor Ostrom.” American Journal of Economics and Sociology. Volume 75, Issue 2, pages 289–318;;;

Ostrom, Elinor. 1990. Governing the Commons, Cambridge Press

Rothbard, Murray N. 1982. “Law, Property Rights, and Air Pollution,” Cato Journal, Vol. 2, No. 1, Spring; reprinted in Economics and the Environment: A Reconciliation, Walter E. Block , ed., Vancouver: The Fraser Institute, 1990;

Smith, Robert J. 1981. “Resolving the Tragedy of the Commons by Creating Private Property Rights in Wildlife,” Cato Journal 1 (Fall): 439-68;


4:25 pm on February 26, 2019