ABSTRACT

My co.ncern is with real social Co.sts, that is, no.minal social Co.sts adjusted fo.r changes in the general price level. Fro.m the social standpo.int, the real eco.no.mic Co.st o.f agricultural land is its o.ppo.rtunity Co.st. This is included in the price o.f land as the capitalized value of the stream o.f net returns to. the land when it is emplo.yed in its mo.st pro.ductive use. If all land markets were always in equilibrium and o.pportunity Co.st were the o.nly element in the price o.f land, then changes in real prices o.f agricultural land wo.uld measure mo.vements o.ver time in its real o.ppo.rtunity costs. In the American experience, ho.wever, neither o.f these co.nditio.ns has been co.nsistently met. Castle and Ho.ch have sho.wn that between 1921 and 1978, facto.rs o.ther than o.ppo.rtunity Co.st were majo.r, so.metimes even do.minant, co.mpo.nents o.f the price o.f agricultural land.1 They argue that the acquisitio.n o.f debt is econo.mically attractive when interest rates do. no.t fully reflect the effects o.f inflatio.n o.n the future value o.f debt.