CAPE ANN BEACON, February 4, 2011. Page 5
By Carmine Gorga
How I wish I had been trained as a rabbi, a priest, a minister, an imam, or a monk. I would now be able to offer you such an impassioned plea about the “Free Rider Problem” that would keep you at the edge of your seat, only to spring up into action at my last peroration, which is this:
Forget the “free rider problem”! It is a small problem. Besides, since it is deep inside our psyche, to resolve it you are liable to create much bigger problems.
To resolve the free rider problem within the fisheries, we all become complicit, some knowingly and some unknowingly, in the destruction of the family fishing fleet.
Who does not want to receive something for nothing? Don’t we all deserve a better life than we are experiencing? Should not the community show appreciation for my gracing her with the presence of my interesting face?
Especially since Thomas Hobbes, we have made a huge deal out of this basic attitude. We have even created a specialized name. We call it the ‘’free rider problem.’’ We have assumed that people behave like wolves toward people. We have assumed that most people will go to any length to get something out of nothing in life. Not simply to get something out of the community for nothing, but even to damage the community to an extent greater than the value of their personal benefit.
On these assumptions, naturally, many feel entitled to go to any extreme to curb the free rider problem.
It is this conception that yields the ultimate explanation for the current plight of the family fishing fleet. It is only by casting the behavior of government bureaucrats, environmentalists, and economists within this cultural framework that one can understand their concerted decision to put a stop to overfishing, an activity that has been assumed to be the cause of depleting stocks of fish and eventually replacing them with jellyfish.
Never mind that there is no scientific base to this fear; never mind that the family fishing fleet does not do the overfishing. Ideology always trumps reality. There are many proofs to establish the simple fact that overfishing, when it does occur, is done by the large corporate, generally subsidized, enterprises of the world and by the moveable feast of the natural predators of fish.
No. Scientific, statistical, biological, and historical evidence counts for nothing. The damage done to the individual fishermen and their families counts for nothing: They might be the culprits after all. The damage done to the livelihood of communities that depend on the wealth generated by the fishermen counts for nothing.
If one sees the free rider problem in such an apocalyptic context as the struggle of good vs. evil, moderation and reason cannot stand in the way of the final solution to the free rider problem. Overfishing must be stopped, and it must be stopped now. It is a moral imperative.
Overfishing must be stopped now, through the proposed enclosure of the last commons – the oceans – and the creation of the Catch Shares program because, as openly acknowledged, this approach will turn to the benefit of the few remaining trustworthy fishermen who promise not to overfish and are assumed to be privileged enough to survive the current onslaught of governmental rules and regulations.
Did not someone talk of the “survival of the fittest’’ after all? There. There can one find final evidence of the aptness of this nefarious mode of thinking.
Never mind that competition will not determine the value of those shares. No, it is by government fiat that the value of those shares will be determined, because the government – without rhyme or reason – is arrogating to itself the right to determine how much fish can be caught.
Such a blatant disjunction between intentions and results would not be possible if we were not all complicit in the final outcome. To make these complicated relationships clear, I have some explaining to do. Once I am done, I hope you will clearly see that we are indeed all complicit.
In the meantime, trust Congressman Barney Frank. He sees it all very clearly. He sees very clearly that NGOs are running a "moral" crusade, because they are fighting the “free rider.” Congressman Frank is also right in seeing that the end result of the current mismanagement of the fisheries is "to dispossess the fishing people and replace their small scale and archaic methods with investor powered global corporations."
But does the rest of the American people understand it?
Carmine Gorga, PhD, is president of Polis-tics Inc. His latest book is titled “The Economic Process: An Instantaneous Non-Newtonian Picture.”