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Issues in Pesticide Policy: Discussion

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 May 2017

David G. Abler*
Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology, The Pennsylvania State University
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The paper by Taylor has merit because it is provocative, but like many things, this can be overdone. His self-described diatribe against neoclassical economics is in special need of a response. He appears to dismiss the notion of utility maximization, but in fact there is nothing to dismiss. Although many economists do not realize this fact, the assumption of utility maximization is not testable. Give me any pattern of behavior by an individual (or a society) and I can give you a utility function which, when maximized subject to whatever constraints that person or society may face, yields the observed behavior. An obvious example would be U = 1 for the observed behavior and U = 0 otherwise, although more complicated examples could also be constructed. The power of economics lies not in utility maximization, but in the specification of constraints on choice and in describing how changes in the constraints affect behavior. To illustrate, even a consumer who made decisions randomly would tend to have downward-sloping demand curves because of his or her budget constraint (Becker).

Invited Presentation
Copyright © 1992 Northeastern Agricultural and Resource Economics Association 

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