The loyalest of y’all may have noticed that I have a longstanding fascination with the legal system’s efforts to value the supposedly invaluable. Which is why I was struck by this recent tidbit out of the Solomon Islands:
THE High Court has ordered the Solomon Islands Government and the Ministry of Fisheries to pay Marine Exports Limited more than $10 million for damages. This was in relation to the government’s banning of dolphin export in 2005.
The court granted the order for loss from dolphin feeds in the sum of $2,073,600, order for loss of property (38 dolphins) in the sum of $7,527,733.75 and the order for exemplary damages in the sum of $500,000. The order for loss of profit (loss from contract) in the sum of $4,785,600 and the order for interest to be included were refused.
If I’m reading this judgment correctly, then the court valued each dolphin’s life at roughly $29,318. (I tossed out the damages awards and converted from Solomon Islands dollars to American dollars.) I reckon that means a dolphin has about fifteen times more intrinsic value than a heifer, but only 1/200th the value of a human being (at least according to the U.S. government). I have to think that lopsided equation might have been dramatically altered if the dolphins had proven themselves more capable spies.