Who let the Dogs out?

The folks at LiveMint have a radical idea to address the stray dog problem in the Indian cities – Privatize them! [Via India Uncut]

The fundamental problem is that stray dogs are “public property”, which creates what economists call “negative externality”. Those who feed and pamper the dogs while benefiting from wagging tails and warm cuddles are not held responsible for the nuisance dogs inflict on other citizens.

What is the way ahead? Privatize stray dogs. The municipalities of India’s metropolises should put stray dogs on sale. Animal rights activists and dog lovers are free to buy and own the canines as pets. They shall be held legally liable for damages their pets inflict on others

Very intriguing and compelling argument. I’m just worried about enforceability of such an idea. But, I’m sure its worth a try.

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Ceding the floor to the other side, even if just for a moment

The greater point is that not all products and services are the same, and in some cases creating sustainable markets may be all but impossible. Though it is certainly not “ideologically attractive,” I strongly believe Kremer and Miguel are correct in reminding us that for at last some essential public goods and services “There may simply be no alternative to ongoing subsidies financed by tax revenue raised either from local or national governments, or international donors.”

This is the penultimate paragraph of a great post by Dan Kopf on the India Development Blog. It recognizes an unfortunate yet necessary limitation to the quest for finding sustainable solutions for some problems. Sometimes, you cannot do it. But the most poignant comment of this post is the recognition that accepting that such goods exist will be very unpopular in today’s development community.

The paper that Knopf referrs to, titled the “Illusion of Sustainability”, can be found here.