Thursday, 7 May 2009

Fishy Property Rights

Michael Hudson provides a delightful insight into Icelandic property rights.

"...after the war, British trawlers competed with Icelandic fishing boats for the rich cod and other fish. After a series of showdowns extending into the 1970s, Iceland became the leader in establishing the 200-mile limit to define international sea rights....... Iceland issued licenses representing a specified proportion of the annual permitted catch, whose magnitude was set each year based on the estimated fish population. In contrast to classical economic practice, these licenses were not auctioned off each year by the government so as to recover fair value for the nation’s natural resource in the sea. Rather.... they became permanent, and naturally have risen in market price over time. The initial holders – the leading political insiders a century ago – have bequeathed them to their heirs, to be rented out to the actual fishermen or simply kept them in the family. Iceland’s Treasury receives no benefit from harvest the seas. Licenses simply have become a rent-extraction fee, a payment to the former insiders and their successors."(My emphasis)

& it's terribly, terribly crude of me I know, but I can't help thinking, as I read about banking being back on the up, that something very similar has happened in the UK, only with money, not cod.

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