When Green Isn’t Mean: Economic Theory and the Heuristics of the Impact of Environmental Regulations on Competitiveness and Opportunity Cost

Posted: 17 Jan 2010

Date Written: 2001

Abstract

The conventional neoclassical economic wisdom argues that the opportunity costs of environmental regulations are high, with negative implications for costs and profits and, by implication, for growth and per capita gross domestic product (GDP). The minority view that environmental controls induce cost offsets that minimise such opportunity costs is marginalised by the conventional wisdom, which assumes that economic agents are x-efficient in production. A behavioral model of the firm is presented in this paper, whereby x-inefficiency in production prevails even in a world of perfect product market competition that is dominated by rational economic agents. In this model, environmental regulations affect both the level of x-efficiency and the extent of technological change and greener firms can be cost competitive and profitable. However, private economic agents cannot be expected to adopt ‘Green’ economic policy independent of regulations since, in this model, there need not be any economic advantage accruing to the affected firms in becoming greener.

Keywords: Opportunity cost, GDP, Profits, Costs, Environmental controls, Regulation, Competitiveness

JEL Classification: Q53, Q54, Q56, Q58

Suggested Citation

Altman, Morris, When Green Isn’t Mean: Economic Theory and the Heuristics of the Impact of Environmental Regulations on Competitiveness and Opportunity Cost (2001). Ecological Economics, Vol. 36, 2001. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1536822

Morris Altman (Contact Author)

University of Newcastle ( email )

University Drive
Callaghan, NSW 2308
Australia

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