Re: economics or politics? -Reply

	Forgive me if im wrong, but your statements still seem to be
working in/supporting the economic approach as the only approach to
dealing with chemicals and their affects, be they negative or positive. My
origional post was responding to what i saw as this continuing ideology
alternatives to chemicals are not cost effective and that when they do
become cost effective/efficient, all will be solved. To me, this obviously
narrows the focus to economics and only economics, and the only answer
will be one based on the economic imperative surrounding food as another
commodity (which it is not, in my opinion). I think if one looks at what
is going on in
the realm of commercialized organic food these days, the economic
imperative is beginning
to become the overriding factor (ask H.J Heinz) and subsume some equally
valid (and
necessary) ideas in what the organic movement has running through it (like
more local production and consumption). I, for one thing, would like to
make sure that economics is not the only voice when looking at alternative
farming systems and keep the conversation as broad as possible to
entertain a variety of view points, some of which may be "touchy feely" or
more holistic in approach (refering to an early posting). And i understand
about economics not being able to take into consideration social and
external costs. . .i think this has been established. My comment: should
it, can it, and should we try and make it? We certainly seem to be heading
that direction with ecological and environmental economics.
	Finally, my reasons for pointing to that fact that the decision
to end the use
of methyl bromide might be more political than economic was two fold: 1.
that again, there seem to be other paths to less chemical use (i.e.
political paths however contested they may be as you pointed out), 2. I
think i had in mind something i read about Wilson in California allowing
strawberry growers to continue to use the stuff even in the face of the
environmental problems it causes and i immediatly thought that this
decision was based on politics and not science or economics. . .

so the diatribe ends,

Mike Goodman
Geography Department
University of Oregon

On Fri, 2 May 1997, Bob MacGregor wrote:

> Mike,
> The decision to restrict use of a chemical agent, like methyl bromide, boils
> down to a political one now because the economic system does not
> completely capture the full costs of use of methyl bromide.   By the same
> token, the price of gasoline or diesel fuel does not reflect the full social
> cost of the use of these products.   In cases like these, relying on private
> economic decisions to determine who uses what and where often
> results in undesirable outcomes.    This is where the only recourse left to
> those bearing the externalities (or just concerned about them) is to lobby
> for action at the political level.    This lobbying is usually vigourously
> resisted by the vested interests in the status quo (whether it be against
> banning a chemical or adding a tax to make its price better reflect the true
> social cost of using it).   Finally, I regretfully admit that economists dealing
> with activities/amenities for which there is no established market (or
> where the market is seriously flawed) (eg resource or environmental
> economists) can not give a precise answer to the question of full social
> cost; they keep chipping away at it, but still have a long way to go.   The
> problem is complicated by profound uncertainty about the costs of things
> that might or might not happen in the future -- for example, increased
> cancer rates, global warming, escaping genes, ecological collapse, fossil
> fuel exhaustion, etc.  There is a cost associated with inaction, but a cost
> associated with action, too.
> Does that help, or just muddy the waters, or maybe it states the obvious?