One problem with government interventions is that, once enacted, they expand to encompass inappropriate goals even if the original motivation made sense.
The International Whaling Commission provides a perfect example. Preservation of whale stocks is a classic case of market failure. The property rights to whales are not well-defined, so each country's whaling industry fishes more than is consistent with long-term preservation of the species. Thus international treaties that regulate whaling make sense. But only up to a point.
As this article makes clear, some countries are intent on eliminating all whaling, even when there is no danger of species extinction:
"This is now a period in human history where the whaling issue will be decided once and for all," said Ian Campbell, Australia's minister for the environment and heritage, in an interview Thursday. "Whaling will be stopped, if I have my way, with the only exception being for aboriginal subsistence whaling."
The commission has sharply limited whaling since 1986, making exceptions only for aboriginal whaling and scientific whaling by a handful of countries including Japan and Iceland. Norway ignores the moratorium. These three countries say the moratorium has allowed many species to rebound sufficiently to sustain a commercial fishery and have announced they plan to increase their total current catch of 2,395 whales a year to 3,215 by 2008.
Some whale populations, such as minkes, have indeed rebounded in recent years, but others continue to struggle after being devastated by decades of industrial-scale whaling.
The sensible policy is to permit commerical whaling for those species that are not in danger of extinction. A total moratorium makes no economic sense.