Calling For the Great Reform Act in Europe’s Fisheries

Time Great Reform Against The Privileged Few

Richard Cobden was a great liberal and campaigner for free trade. He fought to rid Britain of the corn laws, which harmed hard-working families by making their food more expensive, and benefited the rich and privileged few. Apart from helping Britain rid itself of protectionism, one of his lasting legacies is the creation of the Economist magazine.

Why Cobden Would Reform the CFP

Richard Cobden would fight to end the madness that is EU’s common fisheries policy. This regime  mainly  makes fish rarer and more expansive. Hard working families can’t afford their cod on Friday, its too expensive.  This regime is responsible for  channeling billions of euros of taxpayers money to large fishing boat owners to first build or  upgrade  their vessels and then pay them to scrap their vessels. Today, the EU imports over 70% of its fish eaten. We import so much, for a very simple reason, we have fished out the once plentiful stocks that we had in our own seas.

 The Baptists and Bootleggers Unite Against Reform

In is ironic that a former Greek Communist, Commissioner Damanaki has embraced the free market to solve the tragedy of the commons that is the EU CFP. However, in an alliance that is reminiscent of the Baptist–bootlegger coalition, large sections of the fishing industry, green and Conservative politicians, and green NGOs, have united against the introduction of property rights to solve the tragedy of the commons.

The Economist – Reason Stands Up For Common Sense

On 24 February 2012, the Economist, perhaps frustrated with the current poor standard of debate, wrote an honest piece entitled  “How to stop fishermen fishing”. In it, the Economist note that ” in most fisheries, the fishermen would make more money by husbanding their resource, and it should be possible to incentivise them to do so. The best ways to give undefined, long-term right to a share of the fish. In regulated industrial fisheries, as in Iceland, New Zealand and America (and one could also add Norway and Denmark), this has taken the form of tradable, individual share of a fishing quota. Developing countries, where law enforcement is weak, seem to do better when a group right over and expand expense of order is given to a corporative or village fleet. The principle is the same: fishermen who feel like owners are more likely to behave as as responsible stewards.”

The Economist concludes that almost everywhere it takes time to convince fishermen, the last hunter gatherers to change their habits. But by the court by caveats though it may be, rights-based approach is the best available.


Sanity in a Mad World

The intervention by the Economist is a welcome respite of sanity. This in a month when the British fisheries minister, Richard Benyon MP, was reported to have backtracked on previous public commitments to end the insane policy permitting the discarding of fish at sea. This was made worse only at the UK House of Commons select committee on environment in its report on the eve of the reform the CFP also seeming to weaken once previous public positions of support on the reform of the CFP and the restricting of discards.

 Infusion of New Ideas and Capital

Conservative entrenched positions are not an other cure the problem of the tragedy of the commons, they are, all too often, the very cause of it. The fishing industry in many countries, Denmark and Norway and Iceland being notable exceptions, have suffered from the lack of transfusion of new blood by limiting new market entrants. The absence of new young dynamic and market minded individuals, as in any other industry, helps preserve stale or decaying ideas.

New Ideas Meet Resistence

The market, and in this case, through rights-based management, allows more easy infusion of new ideas, as must practices and business models to the fishing industry. It is perhaps of no surprise therefore, that Iceland, Norway and Denmark, have a vibrant and profitable young business. Whilst others do not and seem to be managing decline ever more incompetently. This incompetence seems to go hand-in-hand with a vested political class, who encourage, and seemingly support inertia and the absence of any new way of doing business. Richard Cobden took on a privileged mercantile and political class to end outdated and protectionist practice. Its time for someone to take up his mantle.

Time to Return to The Basics – Some Pointers from the Puritans

What Can The Purtians Teach Us?


I first came across the Puritan Gift on Peter Day’s great show on BBC Radio 4


Listen to it here


I have just finished reading the book. 

Valuable Ethics For Today – Why Did We Get In This Mess

If you wanted to get a better understanding how we have managed to take  50 years of peace and bankrupt our economies, and threaten our societies, you should read it.

These two brothers explain how it possible to ruin once great companies who made  great things very, very easily. They explain how and why it happened, and how company leaders – who often know little about what they are doing – continue to wreck havoc on their customers, share holders and employees.

If you want to have some clear and sensible ideas to getting ourselves out of the very large hole we are in – other than the frighteningly stupid scheme of turning the money printing presses on and bail out insolvent banks – you must read this book.

If you don’t have time to read the book here is a summary taken from the book – but you should read the book.

Core Values

How did the puritans achieve so much? Their values were key. These values included:

  1. A conviction that the purpose of life however vaguely conceived, was to establish the Kingdom of Heaven on earth;
  2.  an aptitude for the exercise mechanical skills;
  3.  a moral outlook subordinated the interests of the individual to the group;
  4.  an ability to assemble galvanise and martial financial, material and human resources’ was and are not massive, or a lesser, scale.


Other Key Points

In addition to this other values, puritans shared these qualities:

  • an unyielding optimism about the future of society to society,
  • a belief that you should judge a man not by who he is but by what he can do – little space of royalty and the class system here
  • a willingness to become involved in mechanical tasks and to get one’s hands dirty and and enjoying tinkering.

You should read a biography of Benjamin Franklin to  see how one man achieved so much  in so many areas by following these puritan values. They are good values to live by.

Evidence and Political Decisions


Generally it is a good that decisions are made with reference to evidence. It is an especially good idea when politicians and regulators are making decisions.

Still Some Crazy Politicians Out There

The world still has it fair share of slightly mad and deranged political leaders and officials. Some rename the months, others spend billions and send troops into war without any clear plans. So it is a good thing that politicians and officials have to provide evidence – and provide the evidence in public – and not make up figures to justify their actions.


Slow is Good

Finding evidence to justify your whims have some good side effects. If the idea is a stupid or a late night whim, finding the evidence will slow you down, and either see reason and drop the idea, or slow you down so much inventing the evidence that you’ll not have the time ti implement hair brained whims.


Bright Young Boys and Girls

People  used to pin their hopes on bright your boys and girls out of Harvard armed with MBAs. But, after they ruined several previously solvent firms and countries, the MBA obsession is less public.

In Science We Trust

Recently, some people have pinned their hopes that science will provide the answer.  It is alluring. Objective minded experts will look at cold hard laws of nature and pronounce if it right or not.



But, things are not so simple. Things are by their very nature uncertain, there are whatever you try to do bound to be inaccuracies. You can kid yourself that there won’t be, but you’ll probably land up making far worse mistakes because if it. This Heisenbery Uncertainty Principle  helps us to realize that even if we handed over all decisions to scientists, we won’t necessarily find the right decisions.

What To Do

  1. Be Allowed to make lots of mistakes : You’ll never stop making mistakes, but you can learn from your mistakes.
  2. We are fallible : Don’t trust people – let alone politicians – who claim to know the perfect solution. Meglomaniac obsessives are rarely right.
  3. Quick fixes are often bad. Decisions more on whims or through lack of sleep early  in the morning are to be avoided. Politicians, regulators and city traders seem to like doing them. The current mess we are in suggests it is not a good way of doing things.