Sunday, September 28, 2014

Repugnance of animal sales by zoos

Luke Stein writes to me:

"As the consummate collector of repugnant market stories, I thought you might be interested in a recent NPR story on the exchange of animals across zoos.

Planet Money Episode 566: The Zoo Economy

Zoo animals are different than most possessions, because zoos follow a fundamental principle: You can't sell or buy the animals. It's unethical and illegal to put a price tag on an elephant's head. Today on the show: What do you do in a world where you can't use money?

I don’t remember seeing anything on the blog about zoo animal exchange, and it seems some interesting phenomena have arisen in the face of barriers on the use of money as a medium of exchange. For example, it sounds as if there are barter chains that can get started with certain animals for which there is widespread demand (e.g., jellyfish), and that these chains are fostered by zoos’ developing a reputation for “generosity.”

Unfortunately, the story is audio only—a transcript doesn’t seem available yet—but I was glad to have heard it."

I'm reminded of the repugnance aroused by the prospect of art museums selling art works.

1 comment:

dWj said...

The system they describe at the end of the podcast puts me in mind of the "money is memory" idea that Kocherlakota and (especially recently) Neil Wallace have been promoting, with Wallace in particular emphasizing that money becomes a lot less important if you have "perfect monitoring" -- e.g. a manageable number of zoos all of which are familiar with each others' history.