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Re: Detectives on the trail of fossil looters (retry)

----- Original Message ----- 
From: <philidor11@snet.net>
Sent: Monday, June 09, 2003 2:11 AM

> 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 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.

I don't quite understand the comparison between fossil trade and gambling.
Money is renewable; fossils are not. A lottery (strange that that's
considered comparable to a casino... or have I misinterpreted you?) can't
ruin anyone (unlike a casino); fossil trade tends to ruin the fossils, and
ruins science.

> In many jurisdictions, there's usually a slight majority or plurality
> gambling before it arrives,

That's not the same all over the world. :-)

> 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.

However, none have passed laws permitting the sale and permanent removal of,
say, important historical artifacts. Like... say, like the original
pergament with the US constitution on it. Right?

> 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.

(For comparison... over here it's discussed whether to let _anything_ open
on Sunday. Outside of touristical areas, that is.)

> You also noted:
> Ivory used to command high prices, and the elephants didn't profit
> much from that trade.
> >From what I've read about poaching, the market hasn't disappeared.

>From what I've read about it, the market has shrinked quite a lot.

>  I hope at least some elephants have been saved because of the
> prohibition of the ivory trade.

Lots! In some (too small) national parks they now have _too many_

> 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,

It can't. That is, theoretically it can, but it won't. "Valuable for
science" means freely accessible to the public, and not in some living room.

> > > 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.

Pessimist :-)

> 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.

Presently that seems like a utopic question...

> 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.

Authority... like what Horner had over JP? Which, after all, did pay him?

> 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.

Well, as I wrote earlier, there is an alternative... give enough money to
the universities and museums etc. that they can excavate everything before
it erodes away. Simple, hm? I'm serious.

> As things stand, sounds like we can only wait

Respectively become politically active. :-} Please reply offlist, if at all.