Can you impose pecuniary externalities upon Korean squirrels?

Look out, squirrels of the world. It turns out acorns are good for humans, too.

Here in South Korea, the popularity of acorn noodles, jelly and powder has exploded in recent years, after researchers declared the nuts a healthy “superfood” that can help fight obesity and diabetes.

In the U.S., where some Native Americans once made acorns a staple of their diet, restaurants and health-conscious blogs are starting to explore recipes for acorn crackersacorn bread and acorn coffee.

That is bad news for squirrels and other animals that rely on oak trees for sustenance. In South Korea, where human foraging has multiplied, there are now fewer acorns on the ground, and the squirrel population has dwindled.

Is this a reductio ad absurdum of the idea that pecuniary externalities are irrelevant?  Ask your friendly neighborhood squirrel!  If you can find him, that is.  Then there is this:

Safeguarding acorns for squirrels is proving to be a tough nut to crack. That’s where the Acorn Rangers come in.

Formed at Seoul’s Yonsei University, the nascent Acorn Rangers group polices the bucolic campus, scaring off other humans from swiping squirrel food. Taking up the cause are students like Park Ji-eun, who skipped lunch on a recent day so a squirrel could eat this winter.

Strolling across campus, Ms. Park, a junior, sprung into action after spotting an acorn assailant: a woman in her early 60s, clutching a plastic bag stuffed with the tree nuts.

“The squirrels will starve!” barked Ms. Park, her voice booming so loudly that other acorn hunters—human ones—scurried away. The two argued for nearly an hour until Ms. Park emerged with the plastic bag in hand.

Here is the full WSJ story, by Dasl Yoon and Na-Young Kim, via the excellent Samir Varma.


Screw the squirrels. This world and all its fauna and flora was created by God for man to exploit to the fullest.

Squirrels have been eating my grass seed I plant, and my lawn is a mess.

Let them eat filberts.

Wrong! The world was created by a giant snake. Clearly you weren't educated in Australia. Since snakes aren't particularly bright, this is an example of unintelligent design.

This is the nuttiest story of the year.

Nutty as a lumpy chocolate bar.

Here in the Pacific NW the large European squirrels that have overwhelmed (in urban areas) the local indigenous red squirrel are really hideous, quasi rats with bushy tails.

I’d shoot and eat them if they weren’t so disgusting. Not all immigration has agreeable externalities.

If someone wants one I can send them the next one who decides our attic is a good place to build a nest.

If the squirrels really want acorn, they should work a job and buy it just like the rest of us. They can't go around expecting handouts like a midwestern farmer that voted for Trump.

Its A-corny tale !

Isn't the source of this problem the lack of well-defined property rights in acorns?

What impact does this have on the rest of the ecosystem? If the impact begins and ends with "fewer squirrels", I doubt you're going to be able to stop the trend. They'd better do some research and show that either the trees will die without precious squirrel-shit or somehow this will lead to the death of higher valued animals like golden eagles that eat squirrels. Otherwise, pretty much any preference/trend is enough to trump the value of bushy-tailed rat lives.

Surely the solution would be to leave some food for the squirrels other than acorns and let them deal with the risk of obesity and diabetes?

Acorns were a lot of work for American Indians to make edible. If you go camping in the lower Sierra Nevada, you find a lot of bowls of about a foot in diameter carved into boulders near good campsites that Indians made to process their acorns.

Yes, at a museum this summer (and annoyingly I forgotten the name and where it is) I saw a film of a local American Indian/Native American woman making acorn meal or acorn mush the traditional way. There were a lot of steps and it was a two-day process.

Contrary to Tyler's headline, surely these are not pecuniary externalities, they're classic non-pecuniary externalities with acorns being the common good. If there were a competitive market for acorns, great (although I'm not sure how the squirrels would bid), but AFAICT they're treated as a commons.

On the nuttier side, give the squirrels those cars that the rats get, and they could harvest more competitively. Or is Tyler calling this a pecaniary externality?

Given the choice, the squirrels in this neighborhood prefer walnuts over acorns. Or maybe they just eat (and stash for the future) whatever is available.

If they help with weight loss I'll start foraging today.

The fewer you find, the skinnier you get!

It's squirrel season down here in the low country. No, I don't mean for killing them. It's their season for doing what squirrels do this time of year, which includes munching on the eating the pine cones (right down to the stem) and getting ready for the approaching acorn season. Last year was a banner year for oak tree acorns, so many they covered my driveway and yard. I've never seen anything like it before. It was squirrel heaven. I thought it signified some coming climate disaster but none occurred (other than the disaster we already know about). We don't eat acorns down here, so nobody harvested the acorns other than the squirrels. I usually host Thanksgiving Dinner, the peak of squirrel season, so many squirrels they sometimes frighten my guests. Squirrels are mostly harmless, unless they get into the attic. Don't tell the Koreans about the abundance of acorns down here in the low country.

"Down Here In The Low Country"

First World problems. I'll bet there aren't any squirrels - or any acorns - in North Korea.

Well there aren't any slow squirrels anyway.

The squirrels are the acorn farmers as well as the acorn eaters, of course y'all know that.


Maybe they need to develop more taste for Squirrel and less taste for acorns in S Korea so they can maximize sustainable yields of both.

Also Super food = nonsense, hwy do people love the concept?

These squirrels need their own cars.

If anything, I have to appreciate the ingenuity of squirrels. Man made contraptions designed to keep them off bird feeders have almost always failed, they just keep coming up with ways to get at the birdseed. Also, if you happen to run into a German, ask them to pronounce 'squirrel'. Its a good 10 minutes of entertainment. Conversely, if you ask a native English speaker to pronounce eichornchen, the German word for squirrel, it's equally as difficult. So, the humble squirrel has also devastated our spoken language. Respect, squirrels.

Absolutely. I have seen them pull up a long rope attached to a bird feeder hand over hand like a sailor. When I found myself smearing Crisco on the feeder, I decided it was time to try one of the supposedly squirrel-proof feeders. That led me to the Squirrelbustr. It works pretty well. Of course, it's not because the squirrels don't understand the mechanism, of their weight pushing the feeding ports closed. They totally do, and it's difficult to find a branch conveniently reachable to yourself, that the acrobats among them will not dangle upside down from, by one foot, in order not to place any weight on the bustr, and so eat. But it makes it harder.

Henry George: "Both hawks (squirrels) and humans eat chickens (acorns) but the more hawks (squirrels), the fewer chickens (acorns); while the more humans, the more chickens (acorns)." If human consumption of acorns actually were to increase non-negligibly, we would see an increase in the oak tree population.

Your Article is very nice
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