Saturday, January 09, 2010

The Market Will Determine Aspire's Fate

Talifaitasi W. Satele


Despite the strongly held beliefs of either supporters or opponents of the ASPIRE legislation, it will be the marketplace that ultimately determines whether it is a success or a failure.

The market is made up of people (both consumers and producers) who don’t respond to elaborate speeches or emotional arguments. They react to their own self-interests whether that be low costs, high profits or some other value they treasure more than the before-mentioned two.

In absence of ASPIRE, the market has determined the price of tuna. On the consumer side, that price is determined by a number of things: household budgets, the price of substitutes and complements, and market trends. From the maximum price that producers can trade their product comes the various forms of its economical costs: profit (which is called opportunity cost), labor cost and capital cost.

To use the force of government, as ASPIRE clearly does in its elaborate scheme of incentives and penalties, to fashion several portions of the tuna market will have effects on the others. Whether those effects end up being beneficial to the people or not is for the market itself to decide.

If this legislation increases cost, that cost has to be paid by someone: either the consumer or the producer. If the consumer faces a higher cost, he may choose to consume a different product (e.g. corned beef instead of tuna). Fewer consumers mean fewer cans of tuna to produce which means fewer jobs. If the producer faces a higher cost, he may choose to do something else or he may not be able to attract or even retain shareholders/investors as his profits dwindle. Fewer producers or investors means less capital which means fewer jobs.

Besides cost, let’s consider whether even reducing our catch of tuna is a worthy goal. Achieving that goal will not happen in a vacuum. Fewer fish being caught will lead to less supply, which leads to higher costs which leads to fewer jobs.

ASPIRE is supposed to be about “jobs, jobs, jobs”. The market, if it could speak, may testify that this legislation does the exact opposite.

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