The Accursed Questions
Empson – aged professor
NOTE: what may appear to be typos in the text are the deliberate placements of the author. All words should be read as written, without special emphasis. Also, parts of the dialogue may be exceedingly difficult to memorize; thus, the two professors are permitted to have notecards.
The setting is a long table equipped with two chairs, two microphones, and two glasses of water. The two professors enter slowly, from opposite sides of the stage, twirling slowly, hands aloft, until they arrive at their seats. They sit meditatively for a moment, clear their throats, sip their water.
The dialogue should
take the form of a debate, its intensity steadily increasing over the course of
the play, so that by the end the two professors are in heated disagreement,
I think the principle point in all this discussion is that the Endangered Species Act is an exemplar of prohibitive policy, one of the most extreme forms of government intervention. Consider, for example, the costs of protecting an endangered species, costs borne primarily by private landowners. About 90 percent of the nearly 1,100 species of plants and animals listed as endangered or threatened under the Act are found on private land. I think we haven’t fully come to terms with the economic burden of the Endagered Species Act… as we know from Tennessee Valley Authority vs. Hill in 1978 –
The value of endangered species is incalculable. it is clear
from the Act's legislative history that Congress intended to halt and reverse
the trend toward species extinction-whatever the cost. Prehistoric colonization
of Pacific islands destroyed an estimated 2,000 species of birds, equal to
about 20 percent of the presently known number. At least 15 genera of large
animals were lost due to aboriginal colonization of
But the realities of private incentives and social tradeoffs cannot be banished by legislative or judicial fiat. While the 1978 amendments to the Endangered Species
Act acknowledge economic reality, conflict over the magnitude of these tradeoffs
has delayed reauthorization since 1992.
The intenion of the Endangered Species Act is to save all species. There is no
explicit recognition of relative costs and benefits in the 1973 Act.' A species with
high economic cost of recovery and possibly low economic benefis has the same
standing as a species with paably large economic benefits and small costs.
It would be flhardy to ignore the social and financial repercussions of this philosophy. Since owning land which is hospitable to an endangered species can dramtically circumscribe any development plans for that land, owners have an incentive to destroy the habitat before listing occurs, sometimes known as the "shoot, shvl, and shut-up" strategy. Just ten days before the golden-cheeked warbler was rated by the Fish and Wildlife Service, a firm owned by Ross Perot hired migrant workers with chain saws to destroy hundreds of acres of oak and juniper wrblr habitat.
The few listed aai suggests they have relatively few to aio their case for candidacy. Attitudes toward invertebrates ae oe downright hostile as they are often perceived to be associated with disease and agricultural damage, a e appear to lack iiiua identity o consciousness.
Preferences are not an ngrdnt of science.
Although in the early years of the Endangered Species Act o official priorities existed for which species should be ie, Congress i require several ea after the passage of the act that expenditures on species should a i a priority system in which "eee of ea," "recovery potential," "taxonomy," and "oi with development" are ordered into a 18-point ae. The purpose of the system was to ee aoii for expenditures on larger aa and birds.
In fct, expenditures n spcs have not been correlated wth the 18-point ndx fr each species, bt nstd are correlated with a measure of whthr a species s n cnflct with construction or other forms of cnmic ctvty.
e oe of the Endangered Species Act rests with its a-eai oiio o constrain the aiiie of private parties a ui aeie. Private parties cannot "take" a listed species. A "take" includes "to harass, harm, . . . ou," and harm eoae habitat modification.
Private parties can be vry mch ffctd by how stringently the "hrss" and "hrm" wrding is ntrprtd. As an xmpl, a tmber cmpny was prohibited from harvesting timber on 72 crs because a pr of nrthrn spotted wls were located on pblc lnd 1.6 mls wy, but within the protected "owl circle," n r the size of bt 6,500 ftbll fields.
Has the Eaee Species A oe the perceived e in eiio?
This is a prtty nv view of things. I think an mprtnt qstn t sk s: What is known about the prvt and scl bnfts of the ndngrd Species Act? Whl n sbsitte exists for bdvrst s whole, measuring commercial vl requires insight into sbstttn pssblts and the marginal contribution that ch species mks t fndng a new and useful product. Th xpctd vl f a mrgnl species equals the xpctd pyff frm testing it tms the probability that all other species fl t provide the desired prdct. If n spcs substitutes for another n ptntl mrkt success, the mrgnl vl of an extensive genetic exploration dclns s th odds ncrs tht a frm will find prfitbl species quickly.
eoe might have eeee about oei eie and related services ey will ae ee, i a a, see or use. The ai oi of contention is oe i o u a monetary ae o these preferences.
Fr ndngrd species, the reported results frm ths ltrtr suggest that th vrg prsn's lmp sm willingness to p fr s trtl or bald eagle prsrvtn rngs from $12.99 t $254
I ee implausible that iae eei of eei endangered species, including oeia a oui use, i e sufficient to ui eeaio efforts.
Dspt th xtrrdnr analytical dffclts ssctd with msrng th social value tht shld b plcd n prsrvng ch spcs, determining t lst plsbl rnge for these values wld sm t b ssntl if we are to make jdgmnts bt th bnfts f preservation.
e i o eiio is a ueio e e o e aua iee.
t present, th ndngrd
Spcs ct sts lft rhtrcl gl
f svng vr spcs, while mkng n dstnctns mng spcs
xcpt thse gvrnd b "scnc," trm lft lrgl
A eie i ae u o a aeae o iiiua a oeie ee eei, oooia, a eaioa aiaio, a a i aiai i e ai o ouioa
ae a aaaio." A eie iue ay ueie o i, ay ii ouaio ee o a eie-oe i uiue oooia eaue o eei ai-uaiie.
t s dbtfl whthr ncyclpdc spcs prtctn rgrdlss f cst s vn pssbl, nd f pssbl, whthr t hlds mrl trmp crd vr ll thr prrts sch s th hlth nd wlfr f tdy's chldrn.
Ayoe o oe aai i ea o a ieae i o a eie eoi ei i ue aa.
Th prsnt sstm s srl llwng mn sch ctns…
iou e eioai ae o aii o eaii em oey.
The two characters stare at each other
panting. The panting continues for approximately one minute, increasing
continuously in velocity while slowing in their frequency. When the