Conservatives Against Markets

My colleague Michael Conathan writes about the problem of declining fish stocks:

I’m not very knowledgeable about this subject, but one idea that comes to mind pretty obviously is some kind of property rights in the fish. Tradable permits that would create incentives to conserve. Right now, you own a fish if you’ve caught it, but nobody owns it if it’s in the ocean, so the incentives all pont toward overfishing. But according to Conathan, House Republicans are against this idea:

Something must be done. But what? Some groups, including NMFS, have begun touting a cap-and-trade style management system known as “catch shares” as a cure for the industry’s ills. Under this system the total amount of fish available is divided and doled out to fishermen by percentages based on their catch histories, providing an ownership incentive to protect the long-term health of the resource.

Such a framework, though, often comes with more questions than answers. And in fact the House of Representatives passed an amendment to its recent spending bill for fiscal year 2011, filed by Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC), that would prevent any federal funding from being used to develop new catch share programs.

The mainstream view on the American right is, I guess, that it’s just not conceivable to do anything at all to try to prevent depletion of natural resources.