This is a really great piece of research that I'm going to try to digest more tomorrow. From the blog post anouncing it: "If you were to rely on media reports alone, you might be inclined to believe that honeybees and honey are now in short supply. Based on the recent documentaries about Colony Collapse Disorder, you might believe that crops are at risk of going unpollinated and that we are heading towards a different “silent spring”—one in which the familiar springtime buzzing of the bee is no more. Yet, somehow, the honey is in the cupboard and farmers across the country are still able to supply food to stock our shelves, all with little or no economic impact from CCD. How can this be? As two prominent agricultural economists, Walter Thurman and Randal Rucker, discuss in a new PERC Policy Series, the market response of beekeepers provided a solution to the problem. Despite early predictions that CCD would cause billions of dollars of direct loss in crop production, beekeepers reacted so swiftly that virtually no changes were detected by consumers. While overcoming the difficulties of CCD has been no easy matter, beekeepers have proven themselves adept at navigating such changing market conditions."
I've been thinking of writing up something for a while about how we really bear a big cost when natural scientists don't accept social science as an important science to consult. Social science is a crucial scientific enterprise. We are studying the social behavior of a highly evolved, highly intelligent primate species that has a tremendous impact on the planet. We ignore it or dismiss it as something wishy washy or not "hard science" at our peril.
This is one good example about how understanding both bees and humans would have been very helpful - much more helpful than just relying on knowledge of bees.
Other examples include, of course, climate change. Someone like Lomborg, Mankiw, Nordhaus, Krugman, or friend of F&OST stickman (an environmental econ blogger) who know how our particular branch of the primate family tree reacts to adversity, can often provide much better commentary about what to expect from climate change than Al Gore or a climate scientist.
Another example I like a lot is nuclear weapons. At the dawn of the nuclear age lots of physicists got very concerned and got deeply involved in the anti-nuke movement. But prominent economists came up with the antithesis of the anti-nuke movement: the strategic concept of mutually assured destruction. Credible threats. Game theory. Instead of ridiculously imbuing an inanimate object like a nuclear weapon with moral content, these economists used what they knew about the human species to figure out a system that was most conducive to a lasting peace (or at least freedom from nuclear war).
There are likely many other examples - I'm interested in hearing any that you have.