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Four Dogmas of Environmental Economics


  • Mark Sagoff


Four dogmas have shaped modern neoclassical economics. The first proposes that markets may fail to allocate resources efficiently, that is, to those willing to pay the most for them. The second asserts that choices, particularly within markets, reveal preferences. The third is the assumption that people always make the choices they expect will benefit them or enhance their welfare. The fourth dogma holds that perfectly competitive markets will allocate resources to their most beneficial uses. This is the doctrine of the invisible hand. I argue that these dogmas of applied welfare economics should be abandoned. One consequence of doing so will be an increased interest in the institutional context of production. A second will be a turn toward empiricism.

Suggested Citation

  • Mark Sagoff, 1994. "Four Dogmas of Environmental Economics," Environmental Values, White Horse Press, vol. 3(4), pages 285-310, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:env:journl:ev3:ev316

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Herman E. Daly, 1972. "In Defense of a Steady-State Economy," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 54(5), pages 945-954.
    2. repec:eee:ecolec:v:138:y:2017:i:c:p:74-81 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Viviana Asara & Emanuele Profumi & Giorgos Kallis, 2013. "Degrowth, Democracy and Autonomy," Environmental Values, White Horse Press, vol. 22(2), pages 217-239, April.
    4. Elizabeth Shove, 2010. "Beyond the ABC: Climate Change Policy and Theories of Social Change," Environment and Planning A, , vol. 42(6), pages 1273-1285, June.
    5. Ulrich Brand, 2016. "How to Get Out of the Multiple Crisis? Contours of a Critical Theory of Social-Ecological Transformation," Environmental Values, White Horse Press, vol. 25(5), pages 503-525, October.
    6. Clive L. Spash, 2015. "The Future Post-Growth Society," Development and Change, International Institute of Social Studies, vol. 46(2), pages 366-380, March.
    7. Maddison, Angus, 2007. "Contours of the World Economy 1-2030 AD: Essays in Macro-Economic History," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199227204.
    8. Elizabeth Shove, 2010. "Beyond the ABC: climate change policy and theories of social change," Environment and Planning A, Pion Ltd, London, vol. 42(6), pages 1273-1285, June.
    9. repec:env:journl:ev25:editev253 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Scott Cameron Lougheed & Myra J. Hird & Kerry R. Rowe, 2016. "Governing Household Waste Management: An Empirical Analysis and Critique," Environmental Values, White Horse Press, vol. 25(3), pages 287-308, June.
    11. Peter Ferguson, 2016. "Liberalism and Economic Growth: A Theoretical Exploration," Environmental Values, White Horse Press, vol. 25(5), pages 593-619, October.
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    More about this item


    Choices; externalities; market efficiency; preferences; welfare economics;

    JEL classification:

    • I31 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General Welfare, Well-Being


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