Pity the poor moose in Maine

Nothing unusual in the quaint old US custom of awarding huntin’ permits by lottery. (Fundamentally wrong in principle, of course; these valuable public assets should be auctioned off, not given away.) (Even better put an end to the slaughter for fun of these fine fellow-creatures.)

But in Maine this is a weighted lottery with a twist: Maine residents get better chances. You can also buy extra chances. But perhaps the oddest feature is that you are compensated for losing in a previous round. Details:

http://www.pressherald.com/news/luck-strikes-hunters-at-random_2010-06-18.html, or here http://www.maine.gov/ifw/licenses_permits/lotteries/moose/index.htm.

Is there a point to any of this? Well maybe we should think about mechanisms for compensating ‘lottery-losers’, especially multiple l-ls. This might apply to parents who miss their first choice school, and then their second, etc. When the prize is a big one unlucky losers will squeal. Read about the saga of Meike Vernooy in my new book “Lotteries for Education” – she changed the system.

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5 Responses

  1. > Fundamentally wrong in principle, of course; these valuable public assets should be auctioned off, not given away.

    This seems very far from obvious to me. Why should hunting permits be auctioned off but slots in the best schools should not?

    > Even better put an end to the slaughter for fun of these fine fellow-creatures.

    Or, at least, how about leveling the playfield a bit by disallowing the hunters to use firearms.

    > you are compensated for losing in a previous round

    This seems reasonable – it goes some way toward having a sampling-w/o-replacement (or rotation) system.

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  2. The difference is that schooling is seen as a public good to be shared (equally?) so that it gives each child a fair go in life.
    A constant nostrum, even of New Labour, is that parental choice of schools will spread opportunity and will also raise standards (for all?) The need for lotteries for school seats is almost entirely a consequence of the Choice Agenda.
    (There may be other egalitarian stimuli for allocating, but they are somewhat arcane. You could almost say, no choice, no need for lotteries.)

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  3. I don’t follow your argument (I am not sure what the “Choice Agenda” means).

    In any case, its hard not to see license to shoot wild animals as being a public good. This public good is less important than a good education, but the allocation principle is identical: public goods should be shared equally, not based on wealth, status or any other irrelevant criterion.

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  4. Sorry -Choice Agenda seems to be a predominantly UK term. Google it and you’ll see why.

    OK, both huntin’ permits and school places give access to publicly provided goods, but fundamental difference. Killing for fun is an individual consumer’s choice, and paid for at the market rate (I leave out of account the frontiersman idea of hunting to support the family). Education should be, it is generally thought, compulsory, available to all, paid for (and usually provided) by the state.
    It’s Merit goods vs. discretionary consumption.

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  5. Your assertion that those public resources that are not essential should be sold to the highest bidder is far from obvious. Again, it seems natural to have people share equally in public goods. As an equal partner in the management of a public resource, it seems unreasonable to expect me to agree to let the rich take a larger part in utilizing the resource. The only argument I can think of for doing so would be that that would generate maximum revenue for the service provided – an argument that I consider very weak. (For one thing, if people wanted generate more revenue for the government, they could simply tax the rich at higher rates.)

    If we apply your reasoning, we would have to conclude that the rich should be able to buy other privileges: parking places in downtown areas, access to exclusive pubic parks and beaches, or priority in handling non-essential service requests and allocation of resources. This kind of preferential treatment of the rich is usually considered government corruption and is associated with third-world countries. In general, handling government as a money-making business seems like a very bad idea – whether it is in the context of providing essential services or “discretionary consumption”.

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