8.26.2008

THE KOMODO DRAGON AND GOVERNMENT INTERVENTION

Komodo is one of the many islands of the Republic of Indonesia. It is home to about 2,000 people, Komodo National Park, and the Komodo Dragon. The Komodo Dragon is a large species of lizard native to several islands in Indonesia. As the largest living species of lizard on the planet (6 to 10 feet long), it attracts the reverence of the local population, tourists, and environmentalists.

For centuries, the locals of Komodo island have regarded the dragons as reincarnations of former family and community members. This belief led to a reverence, respect, and admiration for the dragons. As a way of honoring their "former kinsfolk" the natives would "leave deer parts for the dragons after a hunt, and often tied goats to a post as sacrifice. Island taboos strictly prohibited hurting the giant reptiles, a possible reason why the dragons have survived in the Komodo area despite becoming extinct everywhere else."[1] As a result, the locals lived with the carnivorous dragons in realative harmony.

The Komodo dragon's preservation, a result of the local policy of reverence, created one of the few remaining places on earth where a dragon can be seen in the wild. This has attracted the attention of tourists, and environmental protection groups. The government of Indonesia, desirous to increase revenue through increased tourism, invited a company called Nature Conservancy, based in the United States, to administer Komodo National Park.

Enter the Government

Nature Conservancy began to enact policies designed to "protect and preserve" the Komodo dragon. Fearing the lizards would become dependent upon human beings for survival, the group abolished the locals traditional deer hunts. All of the villagers dogs were then outlawed, as they were deemed an "alien species" to the island. Previously the dogs had protected the locals by scaring away any dragons that ventured too close to home. With the end of the deer hunts, the locals were no longer able to provide ritual offerings to the dragons. The villagers previous 'goat tied to a stick' offering was also abolished, being deemed inhumane.

So the attempts to preserve the dragon through government intervention has, as usual, produced unitended consequences. The previous harmony between the locals and the dragons has been thrown out of balance. The dragons, bereft of thier previous food supply, have ventured into the local villages. The absence of those pesky cainines which had previoulsy protected the villagers, has resulted in a Komodo dragon invasion!

Locals now report on at least a weekly basis, cases of dragons entering homes, schools, and other buildings with the intent of feeding on humans. There would be few things more terrifying than a 10 foot long, 150lb carnivourous reptile entering your house intent on eating you. In 2007, a local boy, age 9 was brutally attacked and killed by a dragon. Since Nature Conservancy's takeover, there has been an increasing number of Komodo dragon attack incidents.

Despite the dragons apparent revolt against thier human neighbors, the locals do not hold any ill will towards the dragons. "I don't blame the dragons for my boy's death. I blame those who forbade us from following custom and feeding them," said Jamain, the mother of the boy recently killed. "If it weren't for them, my boy would still be alive."

Government intervention into the free market has created numerous unitended consequences with similar results to the Komodo Island example. Government intervention destroys the harmony that can exist within a free market and voluntary exchange between individuals. Let's hope we never have to utter the phrase the young boy's mother exclaimed: "If it weren't for them, my boy would still be alive."

[1] Wall Street Journal article. Click for Link.

1 comment:

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Ruth

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