Economics and the mid-life crisis have much in common: Both dwell on foregone opportunities

C'est la vie; c'est la guerre; c'est la pomme de terre . . . . . . . . . . . . . email: jpalmer at uwo dot ca

. . . . . . . . . . .Richard Posner should be awarded the next Nobel Prize in Economics . . . . . . . . . . . .

Monday, August 15, 2005

Input Substitution and Economic Efficiency

In the August 22nd issue of The Western Standard, Will Verboven writes (hard copy only, unfortunately),

As western commercial agriculture has shown so convincingly, cheap and plentiful food can only be produced by the exgtensive use of fertilizers, pesticides, leading-edge plant and animal genetics and large-scale, high-tech mechanized agricultural practices.
My economist reaction is, "Maybe. It all depends." It depends on the prices of the inputs. If labour is very inexpensive, and if chemicals and capital and good quality land are all comparatively inexpensive, it may be more efficient to use labour intensive production techniques.

In just one sentence does Verboven point to the major problem facing agriculture in many African countries:
In Africa, political and social stability would also help.
Indeed. Only if property rights are expected to remain stable, by which I mean well-defined and enforced, will people attempt to invest in the land and in agricultural equipment. If they fear confiscation or confiscatory taxes or land reform, they will use short-term optimizing techniques which will not be as efficient in the long-run.

Maybe what the farmers in these economies need is much less of the type of gubmnt planning Verboven discusses in the rest of his piece, and more reliance on market forces.
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