Politicians and Poachers
The Political Economy of Wildlife Policy in Africa
By Clark C. Gibson
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print Publication Year: 1999
Online Publication Date:December 2009
Chapter DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511625640.001
The Cambridge series on the Political Economy of Institutions and Decisions is built around attempts to answer two central questions: How do institutions evolve in response to individual incentives, strategies, and choices, and how do institutions affect the performance of political and economic systems? The scope of the series is comparative and historical rather than international or specifically American, and the focus is positive rather than normative.
In an illuminating work deeply rooted in the institutionalism, Clark Gibson analyzes the politics of wildlife policy in several African countries. The history of these policies is disappointing. Nationalist governments failed to keep their pre-independence promises to eliminate colonial wildlife laws. Bureaucracies created policies frustrating some conservation goals, while other policies designed to create animal-conserving incentives failed to stop illegal hunting. The reasons are complex. A constant theme is that individuals and groups sought to create policies advantageous to themselves. Their strategies reflected incentives created by current institutions. As institutions changed, so did strategies and policies, but not in ways necessarily conducive to conservation.
The analysis is an important follow-on to Elinor Ostrom's pathbreaking work on the problems of managing a common-pool resource against free-riding incentives to poach. It is a very institutional analysis of that problem as well, doing a convincing job of analyzing decisions at the local level, where most of the important ones were actually taken. It is an exciting empirical application of rational choice theory that gives imaginative and compelling explanations while offering general lessons about the political economy of conservation policy.