Tag Archives: Independent

A Not-So-Heartwarming Christmas Story

Nina Lakhani at The Independent:

Hundreds of British schoolgirls are facing the terrifying prospect of female genital mutilation (FGM) over the Christmas holidays as experts warn the practice continues to flourish across the country. Parents typically take their daughters back to their country of origin for FGM during school holidays, but The Independent on Sunday has been told that “cutters” are being flown to the UK to carry out the mutilation at “parties” involving up to 20 girls to save money.

The police face growing criticism for failing to prosecute a single person for carrying out FGM in 25 years; new legislation from 2003 which prohibits taking a girl overseas for FGM has also failed to secure a conviction.

Experts say the lack of convictions, combined with the Government’s failure to invest enough money in education and prevention strategies, mean the practice continues to thrive. Knowledge of the health risks and of the legislation remains patchy among practising communities, while beliefs about the supposed benefits for girls remain firm, according to research by the Foundation for Women’s Health, Research and Development (Forward).

As a result, specialist doctors and midwives are struggling to cope with increasing numbers of women suffering from long-term health problems, including complications during pregnancy and childbirth.

Campaigners are urging ministers to take co-ordinated steps to work with communities here and overseas to change deep-seated cultural attitudes and stamp out this extreme form of violence against women.


n estimated 70,000 women living in the UK have undergone FGM, and 20,000 girls remain at risk, according to Forward. The practice is common in 28 African countries, including Somalia, Sudan and Nigeria, as well as some Middle Eastern and Asian countries such as Malaysia and Yemen. It is generally considered to be an essential rite of passage to suppress sexual pleasure, preserve girls’ purity and cleanliness, and is necessary for marriage in many communities even now. It has no religious significance.

The most common age for the procedure is between eight and 11 but it can be carried out just after birth or just before marriage. It carries the risk of death from bleeding or tetanus, and long-term problems include urinary incontinence, recurrent infections and chronic pain. Reversal procedures are necessary in order to avoid major problems for a woman and baby during childbirth.

Mark Steyn at The Corner:

A skeptical reader writes:

Really? She called herself a female genital mutilation coordinator?  Not a female circumcision coordinator, say, or perhaps a female genital alteration coordinator?  A casually self-described coordinator of mutilation? Really? You sure? Really?

Yes, weally, weally, weally!!!!!!!! No need to hit the italics key. If you clicked through to the story linked above, you wouldn’t sound like such a twit, because right at the end a British Home Official says:

We have appointed an FGM co-ordinator . . .

That’s the point. In the U.K., in Oz, in Europe, the “FGM co-ordinator” has become an accepted bureaucratic shorthand. It’s not a female circumcisionist but a desk-jockey who deals with the “issues” it raises, sets up counseling programs, publishes health information leaflets . . . but would never dream of doing anything so culturally insensitive as trying to stamp it out. Whatever the good they do, the “FGM co-ordinator” represents the institutionalization and in a sense acceptance of the practice in the heart of the civilized world. Sorry you have a hard time understanding that.

Ed Morrissey:

Unfortunately, this is still a fairly common practice in Africa and some Muslim countries.  It creates a lifetime of pain and medical complications for women, and can kill the girls with infections.  It’s purely subjugative, as FGM has no support in Islam or any other religion.

This calls into question the UK’s attempts to proscribe the practice thus far.  They passed a law banning FGM almost seven years ago, and everyone acknowledges that the practice has continued.  Yet no prosecutions have been made, and parents apparently feel comfortable enough to host FGM “parties” in the UK in order to get bulk discounts during the recession.  That makes the UK’s rule of law seem rather impotent, especially considering the vulnerable nature of the victims and the deep and permanent damage FGM does to them.  Would the UK look the other way for pedophilia parties?

Kudos to the Independent for bucking political correctness and exposing the problem.  They deserve a round of thanks from everyone across the political spectrum.  British citizens should take this opportunity to demand action on the law they demanded, and which appears to have been roundly ignored in the cause of faux diversity.

Wesley J. Smith at First Things:

This is abuse of the worst sort.  The purpose is to prevent healthy and normal female sexual response. Forcing girls to undergo “cutting’ is akin to slavery, and hence, as I have written here before, it is an issue of human exceptionalism of the most profound import.

Some excuse the practice–at least as far as the parents are concerned–as ignorant people just wanting what is best for their children.  I say balderdash, and besides, it is irrelevant.  If you live in the West, you accommodate yourselves to certain Western values that cannot be compromised.  Therefore, all involved in the conspiracy to damage girls should face charges.

If UK law enforcement doesn’t act vigorously to stop this–and arrest and punish those involved for child abuse–it will  have sacrificed its great heritage of liberty and equality on the altar of multiculturalism and political correctness.

Robert Stacy McCain:

“Cultural sensitivity” vs. the good kind of sensitivity? No need to tell you which side of that issue I’m on.

Pamela Geller of Atlas Shrugged is also adamantly pro-clitoris. Perhaps President Obama will appoint a Clitoris Czar to lead U.S. efforts against genital mutilation. I hereby nominate Mark Steyn.

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Filed under Africa, Families, Feminism, UK

I Got ‘Dem Ol Dollar Bill Blues Again, Mama!

one dollar

Robert Fisk at The Independent:

In the most profound financial change in recent Middle East history, Gulf Arabs are planning – along with China, Russia, Japan and France – to end dollar dealings for oil, moving instead to a basket of currencies including the Japanese yen and Chinese yuan, the euro, gold and a new, unified currency planned for nations in the Gulf Co-operation Council, including Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait and Qatar.

Secret meetings have already been held by finance ministers and central bank governors in Russia, China, Japan and Brazil to work on the scheme, which will mean that oil will no longer be priced in dollars.

The plans, confirmed to The Independent by both Gulf Arab and Chinese banking sources in Hong Kong, may help to explain the sudden rise in gold prices, but it also augurs an extraordinary transition from dollar markets within nine years.

Naked Capitalism:

Yves here. The explicit linking of security issues in the Middle East and the desire of a lot of countries to more away from the dollar as reserve currency is troubling, and the Independent also reads this as a thinly veiled threat:

“This sounds like a dangerous prediction of a future economic war between the US and China over Middle East oil – yet again turning the region’s conflicts into a battle for great power supremacy…. The transitional currency in the move away from dollars, according to Chinese banking sources, may well be gold…

The decline of American economic power linked to the current global recession was implicitly acknowledged by the World Bank president Robert Zoellick. “One of the legacies of this crisis may be a recognition of changed economic power relations,” he said in Istanbul ahead of meetings this week of the IMF and World Bank. But it is China’s extraordinary new financial power – along with past anger among oil-producing and oil-consuming nations at America’s power to interfere in the international financial system – which has prompted the latest discussions involving the Gulf states.”

John Wells at Moderate Voice:

If it’s true, it signals a devastating worldwide blow to an already hammered dollar. On one hand, you can’t blame other nations for moving away from America’s currency with our current economic and budgetary woes. The move would leave America with a decidedly lessened global influence in fiscal and monetary matters and solidify a growing Chinese stranglehold on Middle Eastern oil in Iraq and Iran.

The whispers seemed to have mutated into the writing on the wall. Through whatever mechanism of blame, America’s global influence is on the decline. Our dollar weakens while our manufacturing and production is outsourced to other nations, all while government spending grows out of control and the federal debt increases with each passing day.

Against this backdrop America should be strengthening its own economic foundation instead of expanding government entitlements and running up record deficits. Instead of road signs and seasonal construction we should be fortifying and buttressing our manufacturing and tech sectors. Instead of pleading for China to finance more of our debt we should cut the burden of government spending and let the engine of American commerce sputter back to relevance.

Derek Scissors at Heritage:

If Arab and other oil producers are indeed looking to move away from the dollar, they have cause. The Federal Reserve has been too free and easy for years, pumping too many dollars into the world economy. Like anything else, too many dollars means each one is worth less.

Looking down the road, deficit spending is set to make matters worse. Unnecessary deficits under the Bush Administration have given way to colossal deficits under the Obama administration, plus a free-for-all Congress that seems to be in charge of economic policy. When a government can’t control itself, its economic partners deduce they can’t trust the value of that country’s currency.

There’s still time, though, for the U.S. to bolster the dollar, both to preserve our international leadership and because the global use of the dollar is an economic advantage to our people and our country. Strangely enough, a major friend of dollar can be found across the Pacific, in China.

Notwithstanding the constant talk of the PRC’s rise, Chinese actions overwhelmingly serve to support the dollar. The RMB, a dollar alternative according to some, is as tightly pegged to the dollar as the Bahraini dinar. In their $2.1 trillion worth of reserves, the Chinese hold approximately three times as many dollars as all other currencies combined.

Kathryn Jean Lopez at The Corner:

If true, is this what Fisk says it is? Bob Stein, a senior economist at First Trust Advisors, answers that he “doubt[s] even if true that it will have much influence on world dollar demand.” When asked if it warrants red-headline treatment, Stein says: “Not for econonomic reasons, but it sure does embarrass the current administration.”

Dan Perrin at Redstate:

President Obama’s and Congress’s obsession with spending more taxpayer dollars on the black hole known as health care will only increase the resolve of every country holding dollars.

President Obama is destroying the economic superpower status of the United States, and many sense that Obama’s trillion dollars in spending here and trillion dollars in spending there is accelerating it, but Congress and the White House will not listen.

This will be the real legacy of President Obama, a worthless currency, our international influence and power broken and the Olympics were the first visible sign — to which President Obama is oblivious.

Oh, I know, maybe Obama can give a speech about it, or go on a talk show or a Sunday News show or fly to a meeting and give a speech. The world will listen, they will believe, and then everything will be OK. Even better, he can appear on the cover of Men’s Health!

Meredith Jessup at Townhall

UPDATE: Rod Dreher

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Filed under China, Economics, Energy, Middle East

“The Unmentionable Odour Of Death Offends The September Night.”

Yesterday, George Orwell blogged* this:


By orwelldiaries

Invasion of Poland began this morning. Warsaw bombed. General mobilization proclaimed in England, ditto in France plus martial law. [Radio]
Foreign & General
1. Hitler’s terms to Poland boil down to return of Danzig & plebiscite in the corridor, to be held 1 year hence & based on 1918 census. There is some hanky panky about time the terms were presented, & as they were to be answered by night of 30.8.39,[1] H.[2] claims that they are already refused. Daily Telegraph [a]
2. Naval reservists and rest of army and R.A.F. reservists called up. Evacuation of children etc. begins today, involving 3m. people & expected to take 3 days. [Radio; undated]
3. Russo-German pact ratified. Russian armed forces to be further increased. Voroshilov’s speech taken as meaning that Russo-German alliance is not contemplated. Daily Express [b]
4. Berlin report states Russian military mission is expected to arrive there shortly. Daily Telegraph [a]

*From the blog The Orwell Diaries. They blog Orwell’s diaries daily + 70 years.

Link to Orwell Diaries via Patrick Appel at Sully’s place, who also provides a link to David Silbey.



On this day in 1939, the German Army invaded Poland. Operation Fall Weiß (Case White), as it was code-named, sent more than 60 German divisions storming into Poland. It came a day after the Gleiwitz incident, one part of Operation Himmler. The latter had German troops dressed in Polish uniforms attacking German emplacements along the border in order to give a casus belli. At Gleiwitz, for example, an SS unit so dressed attacked a German radio transmitter and then retreated, leaving behind dead bodies also dressed in Polish uniforms. The bodies–those of concentration camp inmates–were called Konserve, or “Canned Goods.”

Operation Himmler served as the official German pretext for the invasion of Poland. Needless to say, the invasion was actually long-planned, and came at the end of a whole series of aggressive moves by the Nazi government, including the remilitarization of the Rhine, the forced reunification of Austria–the Anschluss–and the absorption of Czechoslovakia (with the connivance of Britain and France). The British and French had finally drawn a line in the sand when Hitler turned to Poland, but it was a line drawn next to the Baltic Sea, where those western powers were essentially helpless.

Via Poets.org W.H. Auden’s “September 1, 1939”

I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.

Accurate scholarship can
Unearth the whole offence
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz,
What huge imago made
A psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return. 

Exiled Thucydides knew
All that a speech can say
About Democracy,
And what dictators do,
The elderly rubbish they talk
To an apathetic grave;
Analysed all in his book,
The enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief:
We must suffer them all again.

Into this neutral air
Where blind skyscrapers use
Their full height to proclaim
The strength of Collective Man,
Each language pours its vain
Competitive excuse:
But who can live for long
In an euphoric dream;
Out of the mirror they stare,
Imperialism's face
And the international wrong.

Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.

The windiest militant trash
Important Persons shout
Is not so crude as our wish:
What mad Nijinsky wrote
About Diaghilev
Is true of the normal heart;
For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love
But to be loved alone.

From the conservative dark
Into the ethical life
The dense commuters come,
Repeating their morning vow;
"I will be true to the wife,
I'll concentrate more on my work,"
And helpless governors wake
To resume their compulsory game:
Who can release them now,
Who can reach the deaf,
Who can speak for the dumb?

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

Defenceless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.

John Nichols in The Nation:

W.H. Auden, an Englishman who was of the left that had tried to raise the alarm about Hitler, Mussolini and their minions by speaking up for the Spanish loyalists in their fight against Franco, heard the news while sitting at the Dizzy Club in New York City.

Auden did what came naturally.

He began crafting a poem. And in it was perhaps the finest line of that or any war: “We must love one another or die.”

Auden’s “September 1, 1939” was a political poem, with its references to “Imperialism’s face/And the international wrong.”

But it was, as well, a love poem–very much a hymn to humanity and the ideal of a solidarity, both personal and universal, that might sustain us.


Don’t think that WWII isn’t capable of causing controversy today. Michael Tomasky in The Guardian:

In fine form, Pat Buchanan marks the anniversary of WWII with a column arguing that if Poland had just given Hitler Danzig, the whole mess of the next six years would have been avoided, because Hitler, you see, didn’t really want war. He just wanted Germanic peoples united under the swastika. Seriously.


Buchanan does know his history, in many particulars. There’s lots of information in the piece that I didn’t know. But it seems rather insane. At one point in the piece, he asks a series of questions that start If Hitler wanted war, then why … and lists a series of military errors or secret diplomatic overtures.

Well, maybe it’s just that Hitler was clinically insane, addicted to drugs, a pretty lousy diplomat and an absolutely terrible military strategist, whose decisions (fight to the last man in Stalingrad, and for that matter pretty much everywhere) lost him his best general (Rommel) and sent hundreds of thousands more German soldiers to their deaths than was, as it were, necessary.

Jonah Goldberg gave us Adolf Hitler: Man of the Left. Now we have Adolf Hitler: Man of Peace. I’d make a joke here about what’s next, but I really don’t think this can be parodied.

The Jawa Report:

Of course Buchanan is right when he argues that Germany never wanted to conquer the world. We would not, as some claim, be speaking German now had we not entered WWII against Germany.

But did Hitler intend to invade, destroy, occupy, and then colonize the Polish state? Absolutely! Danzig was simply an excuse for the larger cause of lebensraum.

Adam Sewer in Tapped:

Following Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to the Supreme Court, Pat Buchanan went to eleven. He said that Sotomayor “believed discrimination against white males is okay”; he said she believed in “tribal justice” and “preached and practiced race discrimination against white males”; and he generally spent a great deal of time accusing Sonia Sotomayor of being a racist. He didn’t even attempt to give her the benefit of the doubt — being Puerto Rican in a country built by white people, Sotomayor was by definition the enemy.

But you know who Buchanan does think deserves the benefit of the doubt? Adolf Hitler. No, I’m not breaking Godwin’s Law or comparing conservatives to Nazis. Here’s Pat, in a column titled, “Did Hitler Want War?”:

“Comes the response: The war guarantee was not about Danzig, or even about Poland. It was about the moral and strategic imperative “to stop Hitler” after he showed, by tearing up the Munich pact and Czechoslovakia with it, that he was out to conquer the world. And this Nazi beast could not be allowed to do that. If true, a fair point.

Americans, after all, were prepared to use atom bombs to keep the Red Army from the Channel. But where is the evidence that Adolf Hitler, whose victims as of March 1939 were a fraction of Gen. Pinochet ‘s, or Fidel Castro’s, was out to conquer the world?”

That whole invading Poland thing was clearly just a big misunderstanding. He didn’t want war, he just wanted to arbitrarily annex whatever part of Europe he felt like having — the response was clearly overblown, and maybe even a little rude.


And even more rows about WWII today. Andrew Osborn in the Telegraph:

The files, which Moscow says it extracted from its SVR foreign intelligence service archive, purport to prove that Poland was pursuing an aggressive anti-Soviet foreign policy throughout the 1930s, while ingratiating itself with the Nazis.

Their release coincides with the seventieth anniversary of the start of the Second World War and is fuelling an ill-tempered discussion between Moscow and Warsaw about whose actions helped start the war.

Vladimir Putin, the Russian prime minister, struck a slightly more conciliatory note between the two historical rivals on a Tuesday visit to Poland even as he ceded little of real substance.

But the release of the files and the way Russian state media have trumpeted their contents underlines the depth of ill-feeling between the two neighbours.

According to Lev Sotskov, a historian and Major-General in the SVR, the files show Poland was actively plotting the downfall of the Soviet Union and had struck a secret deal with Nazi Germany not to intervene if Berlin attacked the USSR.

Polish historians have poured scorn on the files. They say they reveal little that is new and are merely based upon subjective reports from Soviet agents at the time.

But Russian state media have devoted lavish coverage to the files, suggesting the Kremlin wants to twist the knife.

Jan Cienski in the Financial Times

Shaun Walker at The Independent:

World leaders and war veterans gathered in the Polish city of Gdansk yesterday to mark 70 years since the outbreak of the Second World War.

But while European leaders were mourning the destruction of Poland following the invasion of both Nazi and Soviet armies, Russia used the occasion to deny any responsibility for starting the war and to accuse Poland of harbouring secret plans in the 1930s to destroy the Soviet Union.

“Westerplatte is a symbol, a symbol of the heroic fight of the weaker against the stronger,” the Polish President, Lech Kaczynski, said. “It is proof of patriotism and an unbreakable spirit. Glory to the heroes of those days, glory to the heroes of Westerplatte, glory to all the soldiers who fought in World War Two against German Nazism, and Bolshevik totalitarianism.”

Chris in Paris at AmericaBlog

UPDATE: More on Buchanan:

Michael C. Moynihan at Reason

Matthew Yglesias

Ethan Porter

Steve Benen

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Filed under Books, Foreign Affairs, History, Russia

Shuffling Off This Mortal Coil

Emily Nash in the Mirror:

The musician, who had been blind for 15 years and was becoming increasingly deaf, realised his existence would be unbearable without his steadfast partner of over 50 years.

So Sir Edward, 85, and wife Joan, 74, decided to go to a Swiss assisted-suicide clinic where they could die “peacefully” together.

Son Caractacus, 41, and daughter Boudicca, 39, were with them. He said: “They drank a small quantity of clear liquid and then lay down on the beds next to each other. They wanted to be next to each other when they died. They held hands across the beds. Within a couple of minutes, they were asleep and they died within 10 minutes.”

In a statement, the brother and sister added: “After 54 happy years they decided to end their lives rather than continue to struggle with serious health problems.

Tom Sutcliffe in the Independent

Alexander Chancellor in the Guardian

Rod Dreher:

What true thing can possibly be said about a culture that exalts ordered, ritualized and hygienic self-murder — especially of the non-diseased — as an act of valorous liberty, except that such a culture is in terminal decline? We recoil in horror from Islamic suicide bombers, as we certainly ought, but at least those malicious ghouls are killing themselves, and, in the case of their Islamist death-cult societies, honoring self-murder, in the service of some higher ideal. What’s our excuse? What’s our higher ideal justifying this obscene defilement of humanity, of the human person, of human solidarity, and ultimately of the image of God within us all? Autonomy? Comfort? We begin by murdering God, we end by murdering ourselves.

John Derbyshire at Secular Right:

I have never been very clear about the religious objections to suicide and assisted suicide.   The only time I tackled a religious colleague about it he launched into a “slippery slope” argument.   Well, I suppose some slopes are slippery, and some aren’t. I can’t see this one as being particularly slippery.   In any case, slippery-slope is not a religious argument.   What is the religious argument?  Are there any secular ones, other than the slippery slope?

Erin Manning:

And if you are not a believer, if you see man as nothing more than an accumulation of carbon who is every moment gathering pain as he heads inexorably toward oblivion, then the lack of outcry at the news of someone’s act of euthanasia probably pleases you. I can understand that–but what I can’t understand are those who wish to reconcile euthanasia with faith, particularly Christian faith. So far, Christians who openly support physician assisted suicide or other forms of euthanasia remain in the minority, but there are some who advance the argument that euthanasia is compatible with Christianity–and there are others who have adopted a “personally opposed, but…” line of argument which promises to do as much to prevent euthanasia as that argument did to reduce abortion.

Andrew Stuttaford, here and here:

John, when it comes to something that is quite literally a matter of life and death, I think that the slippery slope argument has rather more force than is usually the case – any changes to the existing legislation would need to be drawn up very carefully indeed. The concern that people might be bullied into ‘choosing’ death is legitimate, as is the fear that medical staff might be compelled to assist in a procedure that they believe to be akin to murder.

That said, if we disregard the religious objections (and we should), the argument for change in at least one instance-that of the physically incapacitated individual who wishes to end it all but is unable to do so-appears to me to be irresistible. I’m not so worried about the able-bodied: they can almost always make their own arrangements, but the plight of, say, the paralyzed man who is desperate to die but has no realistic way of achieving that objective for himself, is truly hideous – and so are the laws that stand in his way. They should be changed.

UPDATE: A series of blog posts at Double X, including Nina Shen Rastogi, Kerry Howley, Hanna Rosin, Bonnie Goldstein and Amy Bloom

Samantha Henig at Slate

UPDATE #2: Chris Dierkes at The League

Will Wilson at PomoCon

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Filed under Euthanasia



Johann Hari‘s piece in the Independent on the possible end of fish.

Conor Friedersdorf at the American Scene:

On matters related to oceanic preservation, I’ve come to be convinced that sport fishermen are generally to be trusted, and commercial fishermen to be mistrusted — when the two are on opposite sides of a conservation measure, always side with the sport fishermen, who’ve gone a long way toward making catch-and-release a community norm, who oppose bottom trawling, and who mostly fight with environmentalists when they want to impose total fishing bans on vast areas of ocean, especially when to get their way they ally themselves with the commercial fishermen and compromise on bottom trawling!

All that aside, this seems like a good issue for the right to demonstrate that it does care about conserving important planetary resources integral to the future flourishing of humankind.

John Schwenkler:

Can property rights promote environmental responsibility? Something of the sort appears to be the case in the fishing industry, where a group led by the University of California, Santa Barbara’s Christopher Costello found that allotting fishermen owners’ shares of fish populations helps to combat overfishing and reverse the widespread trend toward fishery collapse. The study, published in a recent issue of the journal Science, finds that programs that grant fishermen tradable rights to a portion of the allowable catch for a given fishery have halted those fish populations’ slides toward depletion. Aside from suggesting a helpfully market-driven way to curb a worldwide decline in fish populations that some have predicted could lead all the world’s major commercial fishing stocks to collapse within 40 years, the study also gives strong empirical support to the deeply intuitive idea that people tend to care best for the things they regard as their own.

The basic principle is simple enough, as the biologist John Beddington and his colleagues explain in a recent paper. According to the conditions that prevail at the overwhelming majority of the world’s fisheries, many different fishermen compete with one another to draw as many fish as they can from the water. Even in the presence of regulations to limit the allowable catch, illegal fishing is widespread and often undetected, and fish populations plummet until they reach a level where fishing is barely profitable. As Costello and his colleagues write: “Because individuals lack secure rights to part of the quota, they have a perverse motivation to ‘race to fish’ to outcompete others. This race can lead to poor stewardship and lobbying for ever-larger harvest quotas, creating a spiral of reduced stocks, excessive harvests, and eventual collapse.” The communal nature of the fishery, in other words, feeds right into a tendency for abuse.

Schwenkler has many links in his piece.

Jacob Sullum in Reason

John Tierney in NYT

Other posts:

Donal at TPM

The European Journal

Robert Stavins at Grist

The answer is to adopt in fisheries management the same type of innovative policy that has been used for decades in the realm of pollution control—tradeable permits, called “Individual Transferable Quotas” ( ITQs) in the fisheries realm.  Sixteen countries—some with economies much more dependent than ours on fishing—have adopted such systems with great success.  New Zealand regulates virtually its entire commercial fishery this way.  It’s had the system in place since 1986, and it’s been a great success, putting a brake on over-fishing and restoring stocks to sustainable levels ­- while increasing fishermen’s profitability!

There are several ITQ systems already in operation in the United States, including for Alaska’s pacific halibut and Virginia’s striped-bass fisheries.  More important, the time is ripe for broader adoption of this innovative approach, because a short-sighted ban imposed by the U.S. Congress on the establishment of new ITQ systems has expired.

The first step in establishing an ITQ system is to establish the “total allowable catch.”  The next step—and a crucial one—is to allocate shares of that total limit to fishermen in individual quotas that are theirs and theirs alone (read:  well-defined property rights).  Setting the individual quotas will not be easy.  The guiding principle should be simple pragmatism—using the allocations to build political support for the system.  Making the quotas transferable eliminates the problem of overcapitalization and increases efficiency, because the least efficient fishing operations find it more profitable to sell their quotas than to exploit them through continued fishing. If you can’t catch your whole share, you can sell part of your quota to someone else, instead of buying a bigger boat.

In addition, these systems improve safety by reducing incentives for fishermen to go out (or stay out) when weather conditions are dangerous.  And it was just such perverse incentives of conventional fisheries regulation that were blamed for the tragic loss of life when a fishing boat was lost in a storm off the New England coast just a few winters ago.

UPDATE: Anne McElvoy in the Daily Beast

UPDATE #2: Daniel Pauly at TNR

UPDATE #3: Marion Nestle

UPDATE #4: Daniel Pauly on NPR

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Filed under Environment, Food