Scholarly Comments on Academic Economics

An Ivory-Tower Take on the Ivory Trade


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Kremer and Morcom focus on how the price of ivory affects the incentive to poach elephants and how government policies can be developed to address this problem. Despite an ostensible emphasis on policy, however, the ‘state of the world’ that is assumed throughout the paper is so far removed from the real world of elephant conservation that the authors’ policy recommendations ring hollow. The exclusive focus on state intervention, as opposed to private action, is the ultimate failure of the Kremer-Morcom approach. The private approach, ignored by Kremer and Morcom, offers the greatest hope for elephant conservation—an approach that depends not in devaluing the animals under an open-access regime, but in making them more valuable under differing types of private ownership regimes.

Response to this article by Michael Kremer: Response to De Alessi (EJW, April 2004).