Sea Lion Caves is a privately owned business on US 101 north of Florence, Oregon.  In the 130 years since its discovery, there have been several owners, and in 1932 the 3 then-partners sold the property.  One of the buyers has since kept the business in the family.  This was one of the best things to have happened to the Caves.  Indeed, Sea Lion Caves is a model for how we can act without “big government.”

In 1977, a move to have the Oregon State Government take over Sea Lion Caves failed.  The government saw that the owners were protecting the resource–the largest cave known on a mainland for sea lions–and at the same time making a profit and employing many people; indeed, the Caves are one of the major employers on the Oregon Coast.

Were the Caves to be developed today, there would be too many restrictions placed on the owners, and the business would either be abandoned, or else the admission price, $12 for adults, would be much higher.  In order to have a more high tech building, permits would be required from 25 to 30 government agencies, as well as strong restrictions upon sewage disposal, which exist along the coast.  The owners have dealt with these issues successfully, and their goal is to keep the caves for the Sea Lions and not change what is currently working.  There is a lovely walkway to an overlook of dozens of Sea Lions, followed by another walkway to an elevator that takes people down 60 meters to a large cavern, where the Sea Lions can be seen at ocean level, and where there are many exhibits giving information about these large creatures.

Group of sea lions from walkway.

Sea Lion viewed from 150 meters.

All of this has been done with private business, is in good taste, is not a tourist trap, and generates jobs and profits every year, despite $15,000 in shoplifting expenses annually.  Even the poor creature that was a victim of a gunshot wound–by some individual who should never be allowed to own a firearm–has her skeleton displayed, so at least people can learn something additional about the animals.

In these pages, I have often commented how government regulation is needed, because people are simply unable to regulate themselves. Most of the time, I have been correct.

In the instance of Sea Lion Caves, however, government regulation was considered and declined.  Then governor Robert Straub stated: “I am proud that here in Oregon a private organization has shown that it can . . . develop and protect such a great natural resource and attraction – and still show a profit.”  It isn’t surprising to me that such occurred in Oregon, where so many aspects of the state are ahead of the rest of the country.

If we want less government, we would do well to heed the lessons of Sea Lion Caves.  When people adequately regulate themselves, the need for government to do the job is lessened or eliminated outright.  Had doctors regulated themselves with regards to qualifications and quality, there would be no hassles with Joint Commission or other accreditation, a lot less malpractice, a lot better quality, a lot fewer errors, and problems like HIPAA, or patient privacy, would not be the annoyances they are today.  I would go so far to say that every regulation has a reason, and that reason usually has to do with an individual or a group who failed to act responsibly.  It does not have to be that way, and on a remote stretch of US101, it is not.

View to north and Hecate Lighthouse Sea Lion bull in cave Bull Group of Sea Lions

Sea Lion viewed from 150 meters.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: