In the movie The Wicker Man, a society living on a remote Scottish island suffer a poor harvest and seek a fix for the following season. Let’s evaluate the possible policy responses available to them.
A microeconomist would encourage the islanders to set up a buffer stock scheme to store surplus crops from a good harvest and keep them for a rainy day (or is that a non-rainy day?) if there is a poor season in the future. However, crops are perishable and probably wouldn’t last in storage for over year, so that option is out.
Alternatively, the small society could import crops from mainland UK if they face a shortfall in production one year. This is certainly an option but it may be too costly to ship crops to a remote island.
Maybe they could invest in better farming equipment to ensure next season’s harvest is a success. This is likely to help them produce better and more crops but it may not solve their problems if the poor harvest is due to the weather or factors other than farming equipment. Also, there may be a significant time lag with developing new farming equipment and techniques.
There is, of course, another option: a human sacrifice. You see, the islanders in this movie are pagans, and they worship the old gods. Subsequently, they believe that their poor harvest is due to their gods demanding a sacrifice. So, they lure a police officer over from off the island to investigate the disappearance of a young girl. They then proceed to play weird mind tricks on him, kidnap him, tie him to a giant wicker man and burn him. We never find out whether it worked or not but we’re just going to assume that it did, because, you know, we’re economists and we like making assumptions.
So, next time you have to answer an exam question on the policy response to crop failure, skip the usual buffer stock scheme response and, instead, advise a good old fashioned human sacrifice.