IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this article

Bureaucratic productivity: The case of agricultural research revisited

Listed author(s):
  • E. Pasour
  • Marc Johnson
Registered author(s):

    Two questions related to the financing of agricultural research merit further study. First, to the extent that selective access to agricultural research is possible, there is no presumption that research results should be distributed in a way which gives everyone equal access. Moreover, the returns for a large part of agricultural research can be appropriated by the developer through patents, copyrights, and other means. Thus, there is no presumption that publicly financed research services should be equally available to everyone since, ‘in general, equal access to government services is neither necessary nor efficient’ (Goldin, 1977: 54). More attention should be devoted to the method of financing agricultural research — i.e., by taxation versus market prices. A second important question concerns how agricultural research services should be produced. In the case of a public good, it is necessary to provide the good collectively since, by definition, there is no way to make the service available selectively and, hence, private production is not feasible. There is evidence that a large part of agricultural research services are not public goods and, consequently, can be provided selectively by private producers. The advantage of private production is that goods and services are then subject to the ‘incorruptible judgment of that unbribable tribunal, the account of profit and loss’ (Mises, 1969: 35). Thus, the question of who should perform agricultural research — the private or the public sector — warrants more study. If, as appears to be the case, agricultural research is largely a private good, one would expect entry of new research firms until the rate of return is comparable with returns from other investments of comparable risk. Consequently, the apparent high rates of return from agricultural research should be viewed as suspect if (as seems likely) there are no significant entry barriers. The methods used in estimating ex post rates of return from agricultural research can be questioned on a number of grounds. Regardless of the accuracy of ex post rate of return estimates, however, it is not appropriate to assume that decision makers should base ex ante expectations on ex post rates of return. Moreover, the outside observer has no way to measure the ex ante cost and returns which motivate decision makers as they weigh the opportunity cost of additional research funds in agriculture in terms of the sacrificed alternatives associated with potential increases for agricultural price supports, prisons, defense, roads, welfare, etc. Furthermore, the discount rate is likely quite high for public expenditures due to the short time horizons of political decision makers. In view of these considerations, the conclusion that there is ‘substantial underinvestment’ of publicly funded agricultural research remains in doubt. Copyright Martinus Nijhoff Publishers 1982

    If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.

    Article provided by Springer in its journal Public Choice.

    Volume (Year): 39 (1982)
    Issue (Month): 2 (January)
    Pages: 301-317

    in new window

    Handle: RePEc:kap:pubcho:v:39:y:1982:i:2:p:301-317
    DOI: 10.1007/BF00162123
    Contact details of provider: Web page:

    Order Information: Web:

    References listed on IDEAS
    Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

    in new window

    1. Bauer, Larry L. & Hancock, Curtis R., 1975. "The Productivity of Agricultural Research and Extension Expenditures in the Southeast," Journal of Agricultural and Applied Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 7(02), pages 117-122, December.
    2. Norton, George W., 1981. "The Productivity and Allocation of Research: U.S. Agricultural Experiment Stations, Revisited," Evaluation of Agricultural Research, Proceedings of a Workshop, Minneapolis, MN, May 12-13, 1980, Miscellaneous Publication 8 49053, University of Minnesota, Agricultural Experiment Station.
    3. Bauer, Larry L. & Hancock, Curtis R., 1975. "The Productivity Of Agricultural Research And Extension Expenditures In The Southeast," Southern Journal of Agricultural Economics, Southern Agricultural Economics Association, vol. 7(02), December.
    4. Bredahl, Maury E. & Peterson, Willis L., 1976. "The Productivity And Allocation Of Research: U.S. Agricultural Experiment Stations," Staff Papers 13698, University of Minnesota, Department of Applied Economics.
    5. Wolf, Charles, Jr, 1979. "A Theory of Nonmarket Failure: Framework for Implementation Analysis," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 22(1), pages 107-139, April.
    6. Zvi Griliches, 1998. "Issues in Assessing the Contribution of Research and Development to Productivity Growth," NBER Chapters,in: R&D and Productivity: The Econometric Evidence, pages 17-45 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. White, Fred C. & Havlicek, Joseph, Jr., 1979. "Rates Of Return To Agricultural Research And Extension In The Southern Region," Southern Journal of Agricultural Economics, Southern Agricultural Economics Association, vol. 11(02), December.
    8. Vernon Ruttan, 1980. "Bureaucratic productivity: The case of agricultural research," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 35(5), pages 529-547, January.
    9. Peacock, Alan, 1980. "On the Anatomy of Collective Failure," Public Finance = Finances publiques, , vol. 35(1), pages 33-43.
    10. R. K. Lindner & F. G. Jarrett, 1978. "Supply Shifts and the Size of Research Benefits," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 60(1), pages 48-58.
    11. White, Fred C. & Havlicek, Joseph, 1979. "Rates of Return to Agricultural Research and Extension in the Southern Region," Journal of Agricultural and Applied Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 11(02), pages 107-111, December.
    12. E. C. Pasour & J. Bruce Bullock, 1975. "Implications of Uncertainty for the Measurement of Efficiency," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 57(2), pages 335-339.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:kap:pubcho:v:39:y:1982:i:2:p:301-317. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Sonal Shukla)

    or (Rebekah McClure)

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.