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Re: Detectives on the trail of fossil looters (retry)
Mary Kirkaldy insisted:
The U.S. should not be in the business of licensing people to
steal, just because they will do it anyway.
I haven't heard this style of argument in a long time, and I
respect it. I work on gambling for a State government here in
the US, and this was an assertion used against legalization initially.
It's been pretty much dropped now, because it proved ineffective
for anti-gambling forces.
If you're interested, the public favors entropy. In many jurisdictions,
there's usually a slight majority or plurality against gambling
before it arrives, but once it's been around for a few years,
at least some forms are favored by about 80% of the public.
The 20% includes some people who play and oppose.
The main reason for authorizing gambling is money; given a budget
shortfall and high projected revenue, many States have passed
laws permitting a lottery or casinos.
In limiting behavior that makes legislators squeamish, the amount
of revenue counts. During the legislative session this year,
consideration was given to letting liquor stores open on Sunday.
The budget item had a chance when the revenue was projected
at $12 million, but not with the later $6 million or even $2
Those numbers might give a rough idea of how much would have
to be 'promised' for collecting fossils to be authorized. And
please remember that no individual's life is ruined by collecting
a fossil, so the opposition would have few dramatic human interest
I think there's a chance that enough money would be persuasive
in permitting for-profit fossil collection. There's not much
indication of pressure yet, that I've heard, but it is a reasonable
You also noted:
Ivory used to command high prices, and the elephants didn't profit
>From what I've read about poaching, the market hasn't disappeared.
I hope at least some elephants have been saved because of the
prohibition of the ivory trade.
I wonder how intensely fossils are now being looted in the US.
If substantial enough, then the current law wouldn't be providing
There is money to be made in fossils, I think, and how much could
determine whether a substantial push for private collection gets
I noted a strategy which could be used to sell the idea of private
fossil collecting to a governmental body:
I'm concerned that if this issue is presented to government and
the public as a potentially large, profitable industry which
can produce valuable information for science, but which is crippled
by excessive regulation and the arrogance and exclusivity of
experts, then we could easily end up with a less protective law
than would be possible otherwise.
and you commented:
I don't follow your reasoning on this and will defer to the Real
I respect your views on this, and I'll only say that I think
anyone who has followed the debate on Alaskan oil drilling and
other industry vs nature topics would agree that similar arguments
have been effective.
My idea for consideration was that if there is a reasonable chance
that for-profit collecting will be authorized, then people who
care should define how such authorization is structured to maximize
scientific value. That's why I suggested as an example inclusion
of the expert paid by the excavator and with authority over how
the dig is conducted.
To me, the idea of collecting for-profit is of interest only
when compared to looting and to collecting and publishing after
decades (which has the potential to disappoint me personally)
or not at all.
As things stand, sounds like we can only wait and see if there
will be a push for loosening of the rules, and hope that the
looting is not too significant.
This, to me, is a tough situation.
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