Transaction costs and environmental policy design
This article synthesizes the growing empirical literature on transaction costs to identify pragmatic design recommendations for environmental and natural resource policies. The New Institutional Economics literature recognizes that appropriate policy choice and design will be a function of the specific characteristics of the problem. The physical and institutional determinants of both transaction costs and abatement costs should be considered in the policy design process due to potential interactions between them. Analysts also need to incorporate the extent to which the technologies, institutional environment, governance structures, or policy designs can be changed; some factors can only be adjusted to or “designed around” while others can be designed differently. This framework highlights the importance of property rights since transaction costs will be incurred to obtain or retain property rights and since the rights assignment may affect both the magnitudes and distribution of costs. Another implication is that education and extension programs or use of behavioral economics concepts to affect choices can be cost-effective in some circumstances. Policy design should take advantage of economies of scale and foster technical change. Appropriate sequencing of policy instruments may decrease transaction costs, particularly if there is potential for technical change.
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