Another duplicitous argument from the political sphere (regarding endangered species)

Some of the people in office in the US on the right are pushing to decimate the protections on endangered species. Harnett-White gave away the real reason pretty straightforwardly: The administration and friends consider the Endangered Species Act to be “economically harmful” and a “formidable obstacle to development.” This is a rather transparent way of saying the people with a lot of money that they’re serving are more interested in accumulating more money (why?) and not very interested in biodiversity or the preservation of likely irreplaceable varieties of creatures.

That’s at least an honest reason. (The reason is awful, and their use of it is good reason for us to dispose of them, but that someone has come right out and said it is convenient.)

The usual duplicitous argument given goes something like this:

  1. Almost all species classified as endangered have taken a substantial amount of time (say, over ten years) to be restored or have yet to be restored or die off anyway.
  2. If 1, then protections for endangered species are ineffectual.
  3. The protections have a significant cost.
  4. If something is ineffectual and has a significant cost, it should be eliminated.
  5. So, the protections should be eliminated.

While one may question whether the costs rise to the level of significance, the clear dishonesty is in 2. To illustrate, we can look to the NHS. For awhile, it was considered one of the best healthcare systems in the world. Then ring wing politicians started killing its funding. Without adequate resources to do everything it’s supposed to, it has faltered. The same people that starved it of resources then point to it in its starving state and say it’s fundamentally broken. The same basic move is in play here. The actions that have been put proposed to preserve various species have generally not been adequately funded. Additionally, much of the damage that has been done (mostly by humans) has in some cases taken many decades or centuries. To expect a turnaround time of under ten years is absurd. To make this argument is as dishonest as showing you can beat Bobby Fischer in a chess match by punching him out and letting his clock run down.

The bald eagle took thirty years to come off the endangered list. That’s a fair bit longer than ten years, but more appropriate to the nature of the problem. Its coming off also is a nice demonstration of efficacy.

Rather conveniently, with 2 and everything tied to it axed, we can see the real line of reasoning:

  1. The protections have a(n opportunity) cost (to a certain population).
  2. If 1, then get rid of the protections.
  3. Get rid of the protections.

If one were to qualify 1 quite a bit, then we would have something. If for example, the options were protect some owls or feed some people, we could have the case for feeding some people. That’s not the case, though. We instead have to balance biodiversity with the ability of a few to make the numbers in their accounts higher.

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