The Christmas dinner is a good occasion to be with your family, with an incentive represented by the nice choice of food and meals. Traditionally on the table, a lot of local food is served, which is particularly delicious (have you ever heard about mozzarella di "bufala"?), but I really missed a nice tarte with smoked salmon. Apparently, my mom forgot to buy it this time. Anyway, the point is not much about my frustration for not having smoked salmon during Christmas Dinner. What made me wonder was the argument offered by one friend of mine to whom I expressed my little complain after dinner, when we met for greetings. He said "anyway, it's better you did not have smoked salmon, cause it's bad for the environment". Since this sounded completely ridiculous to me, I tried to provide an explanation based on the concept of efficiency and the role played by the market.
I said, that, if I want to buy the product "smoked salmon" from country A is because I like "smoked salmon" and producers in country A know how to produce "smoked salmon" at a price I find acceptable, given my preferences. If there is a problem with CO2 emissions from trade, we should take corrective actions, but let the market rule. With the right instrument (a gas-tax), we can increase the transportation costs and thus the final selling price of "smoked salmon". The consumers will then face the choice whether it's still worth buying this good or not, while governments will have some revenues to redistribute for social purposes. Over time, producers in country A will become more fuel efficient, if my demand for "smoked salmon" is still relatively high. Total welfare will not be the same, but for sure higher than what it would be by forcing me not to eat smoked salmon anymore for "environmental reasons".
After this speech, unusually long for my standards, my friend glanced at me, still mumbling over his sentence. Then the conversation switched topic when we were served a nice espresso. This no-trade-is good-for-environment argument, although completely crazy, is very effective in people's mind. I was not sure I had convinced him and I really wanted to state my point more clearly. Before leaving the "cafè", my friend approached me and said: "I don't like smoked salmon but we can have some over new year's eve dinner if you like". Once in a while, it's apparently rewarding to be a stubborn economist!!