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Relative Efficiency of Voluntary Versus Mandatory Environmental Regulations (The)

JunJie Wu and Bruce Babcock ()

Staff General Research Papers Archive from Iowa State University, Department of Economics

Abstract: Increased use of voluntary programs for environmental protection as an alternative to mandatory approaches raises the issue of the relative efficiency of the two approaches. This paper analyzes the efficiency of voluntary programs relative to mandatory programs in agriculture. Under the voluntary program producers adopt a land conservation practice and, in turn, the government provides technical and financial assistance. The voluntary program is more efficient than a program that mandates adoption if and only if the deadweight losses of government expenditures under the voluntary program are less than the difference between private and public costs of government services plus the additional implementation costs of the mandatory program. This necessary and sufficient condition is more likely to be satisfied when (a) the deadweight loss from raising government revenue is zero or small, (b) government services are less rival, (c) the costs of government services are lower than what farmers would have to pay for equivalent private services, (d) the number of farms in the program is large, and (e) the saving in implementation costs under the voluntary program is large and increases rapidly with program acreage.

Date: 1999-01-01
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Published in Journal of Environmental Economics and Management 1999, vol. 38, pp. 158-175

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