The Fable of the Bees Revisited: Causes and Consequences of the U.S. Honey Program
Posted: 26 Aug 2004
In his 1973 paper, Steven Cheung discredited the "fable of the bees" by demonstrating that markets for beekeeping services exist and function well. Although economists heeded Cheung's lessons, policy makers did not. The honey program has operated for over fifty years, supporting the price of honey through a variety of mechanisms. Its effects were minor before the 1980s but then became important with annual government expenditures near $100 million for several years. Reforms of the program in the late 1980s reduced its market effects and budget costs, returning it to its original role as a minor commodity program. Although the 1996 Farm Bill formally eliminated the honey program, it was reinstated in the 2002 Farm Bill. We measure the historical welfare effects of the program during its various incarnations, examine its frequently stated public interest rationale - the encouragement of honeybee pollination - and interpret its history in light of economic theories of regulation.
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation