Economic theory and public administration : the case of fishery management

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Peer-Reviewed Research
  • SDG 14
  • SDG 12
  • Abstract:

    In this article fishery management is used as an excellent case to illustrate the way the confusion between positive economics (the domain that deals with descriptive and predictive aspects) and normative economic (the domain that deals with prescription aspects) may lead to the promotion of policies and regulations that may not benefit the public. The main argument of the article is that the predictive and descriptive contents of economics must not be presumed to necessarily constitute prescriptions. Caution is invoked in importing economic theory to the design of public institutions. It is further argued that not each prediction or description constitutes a social optimality. A critical review is provided of the assumptions and conditions that make profit maximisation in fisheries seem to be an important social goal. The article is divided into five sections: section one discusses the overall theoretical background; section two presents an account of the reason why, from the standpoint of a welfare approach, open access to a commercially valuable fishery tends to lead to economically sub-optimal catch; section three discusses the issue of distribution; section four describes briefly the capability to function approach to social evaluation and the relevance of this approach to fishery management; and section five concludes by reiterating the point made earlier that the predictive and descriptive contents of economics must not be presumed to necessarily constitute prescriptions.