Elephants, Ivory, and Corvettes

Back in the late ‘70’s, when I was in high school and first started to really get interested in cars, I noticed something.  Almost all of the fastest Chevys around, were said to have Corvette motors in them.  This must not have just been a local phenomenon either, because so often cars featured in Car Craft and Hot Rod magazines reportedly had Corvette motors in them as well.

All this got me to thinking, if all these tales of Corvette powered cars were true, there must be quite a few motorless Corvettes out there.  This had the potential to be good news for me.  After all, back in the ‘70’s, a Corvette engine wasn’t all that different than a bread and butter 327 or 350.  All I’d have to do, is stuff a cam in one of them, top it off with a four barrel carb and intake, buy one of the countless Corvettes that had donated its engine to some hot rod project, and I’d be in like Flynn.

So the search for what had to be one of the supposedly countless Corvettes sans engine began.  I checked the local advertiser paper, and...   nothing.  I also noticed that every Corvette that I saw was capable of moving under it’s own power.  I even asked the local Corvette guy if there was any way I could find one of these motorless ‘Vettes.  He looked at me like I was some dumbassed high school kid (which I was), and told me there was basically, no such thing.  No one was going to pull the engine out of what was even back then, an expensive collector’s car, to use in some hillbilly hot rod.

So I learned something.  Ninety percent or more, of the Corvette powered hot rod tales were lies.  (As well as most of the other stories that go along with souped up cars, particularly if they were told by the owners of them.)  It takes more than valve covers with the Corvette script to make a Corvette motor.  You can still prove this for yourself today.  Just go to any car show with and check out the Corvette section.  You will notice that the vast majority of them boast having the original engine.

Well, that’s a nice little story to go along with all the other ones you have about how dumb you were (are), but what the hell does it have to do with elephants and ivory bans?

Everything. Both classic Corvettes and elephants are rare and desirable, and both have desirable, integral components which if removed destroys their value.  The difference is how either of them has been “protected” over the years and how successful those protections have been.

There is no law banning the slaughter of classic Corvettes for the sole purpose of harvesting their engines, yet most of the Corvettes that were around in the ‘70’s are still alive and well today.  A Corvette motor is very desirable and valuable, and would make a great power plant for a hot rod, yet few, if any are yanked out of their original engine bays.  Why?  Not because of any laws, as I mentioned before, but because the value of the whole is greater than the value of the items separately.  An intact, original Corvette is so expensive, that no one in their right mind is going to destroy one.

Now let’s compare that to elephants.  First of all, there are laws in place meant to prevent killing them, as well as laws in place meant to prevent the sale of ivory, yet the elephant population continues to shrink due to poaching, and ivory is easy enough to find and buy, if you want it bad enough.  The laws meant to protect elephants have only succeeded in increasing the price of ivory. (Which ironically enough, have only increased the incentive for poachers.)  Now, is a good time to read the below article that appeared in The Hill.

Banning ivory: The why and the how

By Judith McHale and David J. Hayes

A shocking new peer-reviewed study documented that 100,000 elephants were killed in Africa for their ivory from 2010 to 2012, and that a burgeoning illegal ivory market has continued to feed high, unsustainable rates of killing into 2013 and 2014.  Africa’s forest elephants are being wiped out, and the continued viability of the continent-wide population is now in doubt.
The potential extinction risk of one of the world’s most iconic species demands our attention, regardless of its context.  But there is more.  As the presidents of Tanzania, Gabon, Namibia and Togo candidly confirmed at the recent U.S.-Africa Summit, the international criminal networks that are orchestrating the killing, gathering, transporting and selling of ivory other wildlife parts are corrupting officials in their governments and funding terrorist organizations.  National security also is at stake.
What can be done to stop the killings?  Clearly, as the administration has recognized, a comprehensive strategy that addresses the entire supply chain is needed.  It must begin in Africa by stemming the killings and working with local communities to protect their wildlife.  But so long as there is a strong market pull for illegal ivory in Asia, Europe and the U.S., criminal syndicates will find a way for the killings to continue.

The classic Corvettes are surviving, the elephants are not, and it’s all because elephants have no tangible economic value (except for those running wild game preserves, charging tourists to see them), whereas ivory (thanks in part, due to laws banning the sale and trade of ivory) has a huge economic value.

How do we solve the dwindling elephant population problem?  Simple.  Not with laws, (which we have all seen are not only unsuccessful, counterproductive and costly to enforce), but with economics.  We make elephants like Corvettes.  Make the entire intact unit have economic value.  How do we do that?

Unlike a Corvette, even with the best of care, all elephants will eventually die, and the value of the ivory from an elephant that died of old age is the same as that from one which has been shot.  All we have to do is sell the elephants to investors who are willing to wait for the natural death of the elephant they purchased before they can harvest the ivory.  Now the elephants will have intrinsic economic value, and they will be guarded just as closely as when a shopkeeper protects his wares.  Poaching would stop immediately, and we would have a free market for ivory.  No laws or law enforcement needed, any crime relating to this matter will be virtually eliminated, and over the course of time, the elephant population will increase dramatically.  Don’t believe me?  Name me one animal that is used  for legitimate economic purposes that is endangered.  Can’t do it, can you?  There are plenty of cows, pigs, and goats out there.  Even species that are harvested from the wild (fish) for human consumption have much better success rates through catch limits, than we are currently experiencing with the elephant population.

Finally, I would like you to google both the authors of the above article.  You will find that they are both liberals, and once again, we see that the only thing liberals understand is force, laws, and banning things (read limiting freedom), and that is one of the reasons that they and their policies almost always fail.

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