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

HP Marjanovic observed:
I don't quite understand the comparison between fossil trade 
and gambling.
Money is renewable; fossils are not. A lottery (strange that 
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.

Mary's statement was that allowing for-profit excavation of fossils 
would be a deal with the devil; that it's better to have it happen 
illegally than with government authorization.  The assumption 
is that it's going to happen, but government would be soiled 
by approving.
In that sense, it's like gambling:  people are going to gamble, 
the assumption is, no matter what.  The successful counter argument 
has been that if people are going to gamble anyway, then the 
State might as well regulate it to assure the game is honest 
and get money to fund State functions that do people some good.
Difficult choice, and the decision to authorize/increase gambling 
is usually made when a State runs short of tax money.

He added:
However, none [countries] 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?

Good point, countries are very reluctant to let go of items with 
historical significance.  This can be part of an effective response.
However, a fossil is not the product of human hands and has no 
obvious appeal left where it is, so the sentimental attachment 
may be less.

Just for context, consider the debate about using snowmobiles 
in national parks in the US.  There are people who want to leave 
the wilderness as is, without vehicles obtruding.  The Clinton 
administration banned them.  The Bush administration heard the 
locals who said that tourism is an important part of their economy, 
and that wilderness appealed only to young, determined hikers 
while there are a lot more snowmobile drivers who will spend 
money.  The ban has been rescinded.
Part of the dispute was the disturbance created by the noise 
snowmobiles make.  The snowmobile industry now makes quieter 
No matter the attachment to nature, commerce can win.
The same might apply to fossils.  And one attraction of excavating 
now is that we'll know more now instead of waiting, maybe for 
decades.  You (generic 'you') can be put in the position of arguing 
in favor of knowing less about dinos than you would otherwise.

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