Response to De Alessi
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IN “ELEPHANTS” CHARLES MORCOM AND I ARGUE THAT THE economics of open-access, storable natural resources, such as ivory, differ fundamentally from those of nonstorable, open-access resources, such as fish (Kremer and Morcom 2000). In general, overharvesting of open-access resources reduces long-run yield or, in extreme cases, leads to extinction. Overharvesting, therefore, makes the future price high. We argue that if the good can be stored, the expectation of high prices in the future can lead to high prices in the short run, as speculators buy up the resource. This stimulates increased harvesting, or poaching, in the short-run. Thus, for storable, open-access resources, expectations of high harvesting rates can be self-fulfilling and there may be multiple rational expectations equilibria: for example, one in which the species is driven to extinction and one in which it survives.
This article is a response to An Ivory-Tower Take on the Ivory Trade by Michael De Alessi (EJW, April 2004).
Response to this article by Michael De Alessi: Reply to Kremer (EJW, April 2004).