Center for Agricultural and Food Industrial Organization (CAFIO)


Date of this Version


Document Type



CAFIO Policy Pager 11 (2017)


One of the major challenges of environmental policy with regard to conservation is that it must often rely on voluntary and non-selfish actions of individuals. Traditionally policy makers rely on direct regulation and financial incentives, but both approaches face problems. Regulations may lead to resentment and the costs of perfect enforcement are prohibitively high. Financial incentives can be perverse and may lead to unintended consequences, including crowding out of intrinsic motivation. In addition, behavioral economics and economic psychology studies demonstrate that the assumptions of the neoclassical economic models (such as self-interest only, rationality, and willpower) on which the policy design often relies do not always hold in the field.