Presidential Address: The Visible or Invisible Hand? The Balance Between Markets and Regulation in Agricultural Policy


  • David Blandford

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    • David Blandford is a Professor of Agricultural and Environmental Economics, Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802, USA. E-mail: for correspondence. The author is grateful for helpful discussions on the issues addressed in this article with David Harvey and Jim Shortle. He also thanks Richard Boisvert and Susan Offutt for suggestions on improving the article. None of these individuals should be blamed for any remaining errors or the opinions expressed.


The recent crisis in global financial markets has brought into question reliance on markets to determine the conduct of economic affairs and generated pressure for greater regulation and government control. Neither a neoliberal nor a neoregulatory approach is likely to be able to solve pressing problems affecting agriculture and natural resources, such as a deterioration in environmental quality and the challenge of climate change. To find solutions we need to employ a more realistic behavioural model than that typically used in economic analysis, and to recognise the key role played by values in individual and collective decision making. A more devolved approach to policy formation based on collective action seems to offer the greatest chance of success. More effort needs to be directed to understanding the drivers and processes of collective decision making, and how it can be harnessed to address pressing policy issues.