Academic journal article The Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology

Fishing Rights as an Example of the Economic Rhetoric of Privatization: Calling for an Implicated Economics [*]

Academic journal article The Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology

Fishing Rights as an Example of the Economic Rhetoric of Privatization: Calling for an Implicated Economics [*]

Article excerpt

Au cours des dernieres annees, toutes les sciences sociales ont eu a produire des travaux de recherche aux repercussions d'ordre public. Mais dans quelle mesure ces sciences sociales devraient-elles intervenir dans le domaine de l'ordre public quand leurs recommandations dans ce domaine creent des situations inattendues et prejudiciables? Dans cet article, nous nous penchons sur cette question en etudiant l'exemple de l'economie et des modeles de droits prives de propriete dans les pecheries des provinces de l'Atlantique. Ces modeles sont compares et mis en contraste avec les modeles anthropologiques et juridiques afin de montrer dans quel domaine et pour quelle raison l'economie s'est egaree dans l'elaboration de modeles de droits de propriete sur les ressources halieutiques. De ce fait, les recommandations de politique economique en matiere de droits de propriete dans l'industrie de la peche sont erronees En conclusion, nous proposons que les economistes soignent leur rhetorique afin de susciter des attente s et de creer des solutions qui donnent un caractere plus raisonnable a leurs recommandations.

In recent years, all the social sciences have come under pressure to produce research that has public policy implications. But how implicated should those social sciences be when their policy advice leads to unexpected and perhaps detrimental outcomes? This paper explores this issue using the example of economics and private property rights in the Canadian Maritime fisheries. It compares and contrasts economic models of property rights with those in anthropology and law to show where and why economics has gone astray in its fish property rights models. It suggests that, having gone astray, economic policy advice on fisheries property systems is flawed. It concludes that economists should pay more attention to the role of their rhetoric in the construction of expectations and outcomes that make their recommendations seem the more reasonable.

IN FISH RESOURCE MANAGEMENT TODAY, there is a palpable sense of panic. Overfishing, stock depletion, rapid capitalization, public agency withdrawal under debt reduction, international disputes over management and access, coastal community economic and political decimation, as well as concerns about the ecological health of the world's oceans have all combined to make the situation seem hopeless. In response, privatization of fishing rights has been touted as the only workable solution, one with its roots in economics-and-property theory (Barzel, 1989; Demsetz, 1967; Furubotn and Pejovich, 1973; Libecap, 1989a; 1989b; Pejovich, 1972; 1990; Posner, 1977). In this paper, I use the Canadian fishing industry to take a close look at this solution. [1] I begin by examining which problems fisheries economists are focussing on and, by implication, which problems they prefer to ignore. I next ask how private rights are thought to offer solutions to these problems. I then turn to a comparison to see what insights may be gained from contrasting economic property theories with both critical legal theories and anthropological approaches to property systems. This comparison highlights a number of problematic assumptions in the economics and property school, as well as a troubling lacuna with respect to empirical evidence on real property arrangements; both of these areas suggest significant problems for a fishery policy based on privatization. Finally, I turn to the interesting question of the role of rhetoric in all of the above. Economists rarely acknowledge their role in the construction of a worldview that supports their recommendations as reasonable (but see McCloskey, 1990). Legal critics have done so more often in the field of law (see Rose, 1994; Williams, 1995; Gordon, 1996). With reflexive anthropology, we have almost paralysed ourselves in this regard, and have seemingly opted out of the policy fray as a consequence. This has, unfortunately, left the field open for much less reflexive analysis. …

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