Comment on paper by Anthony G. Heyes

Date15 August 2002
Pages539-540
Publication Date15 August 2002
DOIhttps://doi.org/10.1016/S0193-5895(02)20026-3
AuthorTimothy Swanson
COMMENT ON PAPER BY
ANTHONY G. HEYES
Timothy Swanson
Anthony Heyes has taken on several sacred cows in environmental compliance
in his piece on conventional wisdoms. He has demonstrated that, in all 8 cases,
it is not a given that the wisdom represented by the convention is true in each
and every case. Such iconoclastic approaches are worthwhile in general, as they
cause us all to question our assumptions. This is especially important in areas
of applied policy making, and nothing could be much more applied than the
area of enforcement in environmental policy. It is very important if our work
is to have any of the desired impact, that we understand whether enforcement
has the impact that we desire of it.
It is also important, however, to understand which of the conventional
wisdoms are more or less wise than the others. It is not sufficient to show that
there is a single case that is an exception, for it might be the one that proves the
rule. So I proffer here my assessment of Heyes' assessment. Which of the cases
he makes are strong enough to bring into question the wisdom of the convention,
and which are not?
I believe that the cases he makes with respect to conventional wisdoms
2, 3, 6 and 8 are strong cases, and I think that they are correspondingly
important points that he makes. 2, 3, and 8 are all variations on the same theme.
They demonstrate that enforcement regimes can be constructed so as to take
into consideration the absence of complete information in which they operate,
and that they can even use this uncertainty to good effect. For this reason, the
conventional wisdoms that derive from the assumed circumstances of complete
information do not often transfer very well to the circumstances of reality. In
short, policies that are developed with the complexity of the real world in mind
An Introduction to the Law and Economics of Environmental Policy: Issues in Institutional
Design, Volume 20, pages 539-540.
© 2002 Published by Elsevier Science Ltd.
ISBN: 0-7623-0888-5
539

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