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The Ethics and Economics of Agrifood Competition

The Ethics and Economics of Agrifood Competition published on

My colleague, Harvey James, recently edited a volume for Springer’s The International Library of Environmental, Agricultural and Food Ethics titled The Ethics and Economics of Agrifood Competition. The book is a collection of essays addressing the adequacy and fairness of agrifood competition and includes pieces from a variety of scholars, from philosophy to sociology to economics. The volume includes several essays addressing conceptual issues and questions around agrifood competition and several studies of specific agrifood sectors from around the globe.

One of the chapters, written by yours truly, is titled “The ‘Fallacy’ of Competition in Agriculture.” The abstract reads:

Agriculture has long been viewed by economists as the best example of an industry characterized by perfect competition. However, the history of modern agriculture is marked with differences about just how competitive the industry is and whether competition is in fact a desirable thing. Present debates about competition in agriculture rally discontent with the competitive environment around the mantra of “free and fair competition.” But this populist ideal presents problems of its own. First, what is the economic meaning of “free and fair” competition? Second, how does the argument about the need for free and fair competition meet with the facts of how the agricultural industry behaves? And finally, what are the ethical implications of arguments for government intervention in the agricultural economy?

A copy of an early draft of the chapter is available here. But by all means, buy the book!

Beginning With The Basics

Beginning With The Basics published on 2 Comments on Beginning With The Basics

The purpose More Is Better Than Less (MIBTL…I may have to think about that acronym) is to have a venue for sharing information and for sharing my perspective on various economic issues. So I figured it would be good to start with the basics. And I think these basics are so important that I also have a page devoted to them so they’ll be easy to find as the blog grows. If you think economics is too complicated, too mathematical, or just plain stupid, I hope I can convince you otherwise—and that you, too, are capable of wielding the sword of economics to cut through much of the muck and mire that muddles public discourse.

Economics, at its foundation, is simply a framework for understanding how people choose to use the resources available to them; whether money, raw physical goods, knowledge, talents or time. Economists can make it very complicated–to the point of losing the economic intuition in the mathematics of the models they use. But at its foundation economics is based on some very simple premises that don’t take a PhD in economics–or mathematics–to understand and apply to real life. Sadly, too few people understand that–and fewer still use that understanding.

There are three basic assumptions I propose at the beginning of every course I teach. I believe they are sufficient to understand the vast majority of human behavior. And they involve no math:Continue reading Beginning With The Basics

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