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Risks and Fallacies Associated with Promoting a Legalised Trade in Ivory – Politikon – Ross Harvey

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ABSTRACT

African elephants are being poached at a rate that threatens their minimum viable population. Some economists have argued that flooding the market with a legal supply of ivory will drive prices downward, eroding the incentive for poaching. They suggest that the current international ban on trading ivory is to blame for creating an artificially high price. This paper interrogates these arguments, suggesting that they are inadequate and entail implausible assumptions. The dynamics of supply and demand probably work differently to how pro-trade economists typically argue they work. The paper concludes that the major risk entailed in creating a legal market for ivory is that it may well fail to reduce the price of ivory. Any attempts to legalise the trade therefore risk undermining the efficacy of demand reduction campaigns, in addition to sending confusing signals to the market as to whether trade will again become legitimate.

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