Saturday, August 27, 2011

Guitar Wars

These stories about the raids on Gibson guitar factories are just weird. Confiscating ebony fingerboards because they didn't have the correct amount of finishing done by Indian workers under Indian law? Sure sounds to me as if the US Federal authorities are way out of control. Here is an interview with the CEO of Gibson.

My guitar, a very special instrument built in the early 80s by a Vancouver builder, has an ebony fingerboard, ebony bridge, Indian rosewood back and sides, Honduran mahogany neck and high-altitude British Columbian spruce top. The nut, the small bar that holds the strings at the upper end of the neck as they pass to the tuning pegs, was originally ivory, chosen for its special resonant qualities. If it hadn't been cut from a piece of antique ivory, I'm sure it would be quite illegal.

I'm not entirely sure where I stand on the ivory question. I certainly don't want elephants killed off for their ivory. But at the same time I wonder if we don't sometimes preserve species because they have value for us. Before the invention of the motor-car, how many horses were there in New York? How many are there now?

I'm confused by the ban on Brazilian rosewood. According to the Wikipedia article, [Brazilian rosewood]
is found only in Brazil, from the eastern forests of Bahia to Rio de Janeiro. It is threatened by habitat loss, since most of its habitat has been converted to farmland. Due to its endangered status, it was CITES-listed on Nov. 6 1992 in Appendix I (the most protected), and illegal to trade.
It grows in a specific area but is threatened because most of this habitat has been converted to farmland? And the solution is to ban trade in the wood, making it of no economic value? How is this supposed to preserve the habitat? Wouldn't that be an excellent reason to go ahead and convert the rest of the habitat to farmland, growing something that would be of economic value? I just don't get the logic there. Wouldn't it make more sense to have a world market in Brazilian rosewood, a natural product both beautiful and prized for its resonant qualities in musical instruments? Wouldn't that make it very desirable to create plantations devoted to growing rosewood so you could sell it into that international market? Wouldn't that result in a lot more rosewood? Surely a valuable product like rosewood would be a higher value use of the land than as mere farmland? Sometimes the way government operates, especially international bodies, makes no sense to me.

UPDATE:
Thanks, Glenn, for the Instalaunch. Mostly on this blog I try to do some kind of music criticism, but I am at heart a libertarian and that comes out sometimes!

9 comments:

junyo said...

Um, yeah. Responsible countries in Africa cull elephant herds to keep them at a sustainable size. Do-gooders argue that even so, they shouldn't be able to profit from the culled ivory, those making the conservation effort hugely expensive, with zero profit incentive. And poachers kill more and more elephants, since the price of ivory is now artificially high. Which in turn makes conservation efforts even more expensive.

So the answer, of course, is to destroy ALL the culled ivory.

If you're looking from logic or reasonableness from most do-gooders, you should wear comfy shoes and pack a lunch because the search will take quite a while.

Anonymous said...

Excellent points, including junyo's.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Townsend:

The answer to what you view as failed government logic is quite simple - Capitalism does not work. Repeat this often enough and you will begin to understand the logic of the left.

Firehand said...

Look a leopards: there have been large areas in Africa where there were so many they were considered a pest. Allowing sport hunting of them paid farmers enough that they could put up with livestock losses and the leopards did well. Make it illegal to hunt them, or illegal to bring a trophy back, so nobody will pay to hunt them, and farmers & ranchers wind up trapping and poisoning them because they now can't afford the predation on livestock. Same for other animals, make them valuable to people and they'll help take care of them; make them valueless or a problem...

On ivory, I can't remember the date(80's, I believe) but Kenya had seized a couple of tons of ivory from poachers. Could have sold it on the legal market and used the funds to keep their game rangers in gear and fuel for years, but instead- to 'make a point'- they burned it.

Anonymous said...

In Texas, a scientist studying bats approached a farmer to ask permission to observe a bat colony in an old barn.

The farmer said that he was going to burn down the barn to get rid of the bats. To dissuade the farmer, the scientist made a passionate argument in favor of keeping the bats in place. Then the scientist told the farmer of the benefits of having bats - insect control which lowered the cost of pesticide, rodent contol which reduced crops being ruined in the fields and in storage, bat guano as high-end fertiizer, etc.

Seeing that he had convinced the farmer of the benefits of bats, the scientist started toward the barn and was stopped by the farmer because the bats were too valuable to be disturbed.

halojones-fan said...

The idea is that nobody should profit by exploiting endangered species.

If there are no endangered species to exploit then ipso facto nobody can profit by exploiting them.

Anonymous said...

@ Firehand: They torched 5 tons of ivory in Kenya earlier this month. As if that wil re-animate the elephants that were slaughtered to obtain it.

paul a'barge said...

Question: the US DOJ raided Gibson. The DOJ did not raid Martin.

Martin buys exactly the same woods from the same suppliers in India. Their wood comes over on the same biota.

Martin executives donated to Democrats. Gibson executives donated to Republicans. The DOJ did NOT RAID MARTIN.

every one of you morons who voted for Barack Hussein Obama is responsible for this. Every one of you.

Bryan Townsend said...

@ halojones-fan: very true, if there are no endangered species, then no-one can profit from their exploitation. So, two ways to get there: either finish off the endangered species or spend a great deal of money to protect them. I suspect that there will always be endangered species for many reasons. I was trying to get at the point that this is not a recent nor local phenomenon. There are many natural products that are very valuable to us. Allowing free trade in these products guarantees that they will be available because it will be profitable to produce them. Banning trade in them means what? It will be profitable to no-one to produce them?

I think it is the idea of profit that horrifies some people. Much like the Puritans were horrified by the idea that someone, somewhere, was having fun...