RALEIGH – The market process is not a theory. It is not an ideology. It is simply the most efficient means human beings have ever come up with for resolving a wide range of conflicts.
Many of these conflicts arise because different people want to do different things with the same resource. In a developed economy based on private property, markets facilitate the resolution of such disputes. No central authority need be given the power to decide what would be the best use of a given parcel of land, for example. No central authority could ever gather all the bits of information needed to make the “right” decision, anyway. Instead, prospective users bid to acquire the property, and the owner takes the best deal.
The thornier conflicts are those regarding resources that are not privately owned – either because of past government expansion or, in the case of air and flowing water, because the assertion and enforcement of private ownership is difficult if not impossible. Government involvement is necessary here, but that involvement need not devolve into central planning.
Consider the current controversy over fishing rights off the North Carolina coast. This is a legitimate area for government action, because a “first come, first catch” rule for fish in public waterways is a classic case of the tragedy of the commons. Without the incentive private ownership brings to conserve a valuable resource, it tends to be over-consumed, to everyone’s long-term detriment.
State Rep. Darrell McCormick, a Yadkin County Republican, has filed a bill to declare three species “game fish” on the grounds that they are of greater economic value to recreational fishermen than to commercial fisherman whose catches are marketed to the public.
Recreational fishermen already account for most of the red drum, spotted sea trout, and striped bass caught in North Carolina waters. McCormick’s bill would bring that share close to 100 percent. His argument is that those who fish for sport derive greater value from the experience than do consumers who eat commercially caught fish. “The dock value of one red drum is about $1.50 a pound,” McCormick told Carolina Journal. “Its value to our state, as a recreational fish, is $300 a pound.”