Sent: Monday, February 06, 2017 6:44 AM
Subject: Help! My child cannot have a pet snail!
Dear Dr. Block; Recently, posted on my Facebook wall, was a picture of a woman holding a giant African snail. The creature is quite large, about double the size of a man’s fist. They are gentle, and according to numerous websites, make excellent pets for people who want some sort of exotic animal. However, they are not available as pets in the United States. It seems the “powers that be” have determined that if such creatures were to become feral, (a feral snail… imagine that), they would breed in the wild, and, with no natural predators, rapidly become a serious agricultural pest. There is a legitimate danger in that. In my native Phoenix, we are dealing with an invasion of peach-faced love birds, a popular pet, some of which have escaped, and begun to breed here in the Valley of the Sun. While the love birds are pretty, they are displacing native species. So you can easily see that the concern for the escape of these snails is based upon legitimate protection of existing agricultural commercial interests. So, here is my question. In your view, how would a free society deal with exotic pets, or any other type of (potentially) invasive species? I assume that a person would be held accountable for his own pets, however, an accidental release could have disastrous repercussions that a single individual could never mitigate. I look forward to your response. PF
Dear PF: Thanks for sending me this very intriguing and important question. Here are my comments. We need more than the non-aggression principle (NAP), private property rights and the principle of free association to derive libertarian conclusions for all challenges, such as this one. We also need (private!) courts to deal with such complicated grey area issues. We I a judge on a court being confronted with this challenge, I would uphold a law forbidding your child, or anyone else, from having a pet snail. To my way of thinking, this is similar to laws preventing people from keeping caches of dynamite, or a nuclear weapon, in their basement in the middle of a city. I’ve written about gray area issues here: Block, Walter and William Barnett II. 2008. “Continuums” Journal Etica e Politica / Ethics & Politics, Vol. 1, pp. 151-166, June; http://www2.units.it/~etica/; http://www2.units.it/~etica/2008_1/BLOCKBARNETT.pdf , and about where nuclear weapons may properly be stored here: Block, Walter E. and Matthew A. Block. 2000. “Toward a Universal Libertarian Theory of Gun (Weapon) Control,” Ethics, Place and Environment, Vol. 3, No. 3, pp. 289-298; http://www.walterblock.com/wp-content/uploads/publications/theory_gun_control.pdf; https://www.researchgate.net/publication/228127780_Toward_a_Universal_Libertarian_Theory_of_Gun_(Weapon)_Control_A_Spatial_and_Georgraphical_Analysis?ev=prf_pub; https://www.researchgate.net/publication/228127780_Toward_a_Universal_Libertarian_Theory_of_Gun_Weapon_Control_A_Spatial_and_Georgraphical_Analysis; http://www.walterblock.com/publications/toward-a-universal-libertarian-theory-of-gun-weapon-control-a-spatial-and-geographical-analysis/