Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Economists Gone Wild

Back in the day, I enjoyed the talking heads orchestra known as The Ralston Group, not least because I could spend some quality time with my father who was an irregular guest on a show full of them. That's how I was introduced to Gareth Morgan, a fellow seat jockey for the show.

Over the years, Gareth Morgan has impressed with his insight and work. The triumphs and his tragedies of policy and sheer bloody-minded kite-flying in the face of a lightning storm of public opinion are part of the package. For every Big Kahuna, there's bound to be a few missable tiddler waves.

Every man and their cat has taken umbrage with Gareth Morgan's latest idea to exterminate all the cats in New Zealand. Not surprising really, seeing how NZ has one of the highest cats per capita rates in the world. Many people prefer cats to people, for example the mad old cat ladies with toxoplasmosis.

At the very least, I expect a Cats that Look like Gareth Morgan meme or something to pop out of the affair. At the most, someone with a lot of petty cash might want to fund a few free cat speyings at the SPCA. It's the single, most direct ways to root out Morgan's alleged problem; lower the cost barriers to kitteh castration.

But that's it. I was going to raise a personal defence for my own cat, Professor Hunter Gonzales. He's an SPCA eunuch, and a feline physicist specialising in the momentum of tossing dead animals and the thermodynamics of dripping taps. And he's taught me a thing or two. For example, no-one else but him has taught me that rats can scream.

There were other defence prongs; the lack of snakes here, the pet snobbery, the ecological Reductio ad Absurdum of Bender's Law (Kill All the Humans). But an economic parable might be the best medicine.

My old man also hated cats. He once swore blind that there was a nest of feral cats living under our house in central Palmy, and set about shooting any cat that trespassed onto the property from his bedroom window with a .22 rifle. All part of his bulleted menu of imported fair game; possum, rabbit, duck, quail, deer. All these pests gave him an alibi to kill.

The circular logic of colonial sporting habits that this presents is not the point. The point is that my old man was responsible for releasing Dagg knows how many kilograms of lead into the NZ bush. In and of itself that mightn't be a problem, but the sheer number of NZers who love shooting things shares the same ground as any other tragedy of the very finite Commons.

Sometimes, it just depends on what you classify as an externality. I attempt to minimise my carbon footprint as much as reasonable. I haven't bred, I don't have a substitute penis and abide the preservation of penguins by vowing never to hoon past them on a custom-made motorbike. Each to their own.