Scholarly Comments on Academic Economics

The Role of Economists in Liberalizing Swedish Agriculture


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I examine the process that led to major reforms in agriculture in Sweden, culminating in 1990. Economists were largely responsible for putting the issue on the agenda. Using a public choice perspective, they reformulated the debate. Who benefited, who paid, and what were the true costs? The reformulation illuminated an “iron triangle”—farmers and their interest organizations, politicians, and the bureaucracy. When the new policy coalition gained the initiative, connections and support from the Ministry of Finance were critical, and led to a new will reaching the Prime Minister and finally into the bureaucracy itself, the Ministry of Agriculture. Economists and others overcame the iron triangle. Enlightened discourse played no small role in overcoming resistance.