Understanding the Common Agricultural Policy

A.J. Oskam

Research output: Contribution to journalBook reviewProfessional


Can another book on the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) still be worth reading? The well-known CAP books by Fennell, Ritson and Harvey, and Grant and Ackrill were all published more than 10 years ago: so an update in the UK is not superfluous. Hill's book appeared in November 2011, although the publisher has dated it 2012. It has an unusual structure and is written in an easy, readable style. Nearly all chapter titles start with ‘Understanding’. The author is worried that students read quickly outdated reports, web sites and overviews and advises them to read this book. The first chapter describes the policy process: what determines this process? An excellent idea in theory, but in practice the chapter boils down to explaining only one methodology very similar to the so-called Tinbergen approach: defining problems, identifying targets (or objectives) and searching out best instruments. This approach appeals to me as a Dutchman, since it is still in use in the Netherlands. But it is questionable whether students should learn only this approach in order to understand the CAP. Except in some parts of Chapter 3, public choice/political economy, institutional economics, etc. (De Gorter and Swinnen, 2002; Mueller, 2003) are not mentioned at all in the rest of the book. Problems and policy objectives are handled in Chapter 2. Here, Hill shares with many others the difficulty of working with several rather vague objectives defined in the Treaty of Rome and constantly carried forward to the Treaty of Lisbon (e.g. Senior Nello, 2011: 282). Objectives point in different directions. But that is a typical element of a set of variable multidimensional policy objectives within a Tinbergen framework. Some researchers work with objective functions, others see it as policy process.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)735-738
JournalEuropean Review of Agricultural Economics
Publication statusPublished - 2012

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