Wine economics

Monday, July 17, 2006

WWF calls on winemakers to choose cork

The News Alert of Friday, July 14, 2006 reported about efforts by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to conserve cork forests in Spain, Portugal, Algeria, Tunisia, Italy, and France that are endangered by the screw top for wine bottles. According the the Decanter, "WWF believes that industries offer added value to their consumers while working for nature,' the leaflet concludes."

The WWF has a Cork Landscapes Programme which is concerned with the protection, management and restoration of the natural wealth of cork oak landscapes. On its website, the WWF publishes a bucket full of bullet points praising the virtues of cork oak landscapes and reminding readers that "More than 100,000 people ... depend directly and indirectly on the cork economies". It doesn't say a word about corkiness, caused by TCA (For more info about TCA and the benefits of screw caps, you may want to watch the amusing video at the Bonny Doon vinery website. You find the video under the menue "Vineyard" in the "Learn our ways" row of the "Dooniverse" section).

The WWF activity reminds me of the economic sophism "A Petition" by Frederic Bastiat from 1845. The petitioners were the manufacturers of candles, tapers, lanterns, etc. who praised the "Honorable Members of the the Chamber of Deputies" for having "little regard for abundance and low prices" and for their concern "with the fate of the producer". The purpose of the petition was nothing less than to be freed from the competition of the sun from which the industry suffered. To this end the candle makers asked the Chamber of Deputies "... to be so good as to pass a law requiring the closing of all windows, dormers, skylights, inside and outside shutters, curtains, casements, bull's-eyes, deadlights, and blinds - in short, all openings, holes, chinks, and fissures through which the light of the sun is wont to enter houses, to the detriment of the fair industries ...". Apparently, today as yesterday, special interests easily prevail over economic sense.



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