The latest issue of the Canadian Journal of Agricultural Economics has an article by Maurice Doyon titled “Can Agricultural Economists Improve their Policy Relevance?”
The article is a summary of Doyon’s presidential address to the 2014 meetings of the Canadian Agricultural Economics Society. In his address, Doyon posits that in order to improve their policy relevance, agricultural economists need to take seriously some of the criticisms which have been directed at economics in general, and some of his recommendations are that:
- We should be more transparent by showing all of our robustness checks,
- We should incorporate insights from other behavioral sciences, and
- We should learn to write for a broader audience.
I don’t disagree with any of those recommendations, but my view is that the many young (i.e., younger than 40 or so) agricultural economists are already doing those things. Indeed,
- Many of us have followed the lead of other applied microeconomists (e.g., labor and development economists in particular) in presenting results that are as transparent as possible and including as many robustness checks as we can imagine in our work,
- Many (though not all) of us now have a healthy appreciation for the insights generated by behavioral economists, and
- Quite a few of us are involved in the popularization of what we do, whether by blogging, writing popular press pieces, or by being actively engaged in social media.
I am not saying Doyon’s remarks miss the mark–many agricultural economists would greatly benefit from following his recommendations–but if I had been the one making those remarks, I would have gone a step further, and my overwhelming recommendation would have been this: In order to enhance their policy relevance, agricultural economists have to do two things: (i) Answer bigger questions, and (ii) Take causal identification seriously. Continue reading