Old ladies and German football can teach the World Bank a bit about economics.
From time to time we hear from the World Bank and other economists that the way to protect nature is to put a price on it.
Old ladies and German football show us that good owners, not markets, are the key to looking after things.
If you want to buy a used car, you look out for “one user, female, 3,000 miles.” You might imagine a retired, female school-teacher, who has driven carefully and religiously taken the vehicle for servicing. The car has thrived under careful owernship. You don’t want the previous owner to have been a young tear-away who practised hand-brake turns off-road.
Similarly, German football, with supporters owning at least 50% of the clubs, is in good hands, and the results are evident. The glitzy, quick-rich billionaires who dominate the ownership of English football clubs are put to shame. As much as they might think they are building for the long-term, the lure of the refinancing and the dividend inevitably corrupts and compromises their good intentions.
In the same way, if someone does have to own forests, rivers, mountains and seas then it should be caring owners. A price-mechanism is blind to the character of the owner and therefore an insufficient or irrelevant mechanism for the purpose of ensuring the natural phenomena are cared for.
If you want your woods to be the sylvan equivalent of the English football team, privatise by all means. But nature deserves more.