Priceless

Overview

As clinical as it sounds to express the value of human lives, health, or the environment in cold dollars and cents, cost-benefit analysis requires it. More disturbingly, this approach is being embraced by a growing number of politicians and conservative pundits as the most reasonable way to make many policy decisions regarding public health and the environment.

By systematically refuting the economic algorithms and illogical assumptions that cost-benefit analysts flaunt as fact,...

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Overview

As clinical as it sounds to express the value of human lives, health, or the environment in cold dollars and cents, cost-benefit analysis requires it. More disturbingly, this approach is being embraced by a growing number of politicians and conservative pundits as the most reasonable way to make many policy decisions regarding public health and the environment.

By systematically refuting the economic algorithms and illogical assumptions that cost-benefit analysts flaunt as fact, Priceless tells a “gripping story about how solid science has been shoved to the backburner by bean counters with ideological blinders” (In These Times). Ackerman and Heinzerling argue that decisions about health and safety should be made “to reflect not economists’ numbers, but democratic values, chosen on moral grounds. This is a vividly written book, punctuated by striking analogies, a good deal of outrage, and a nice dose of humor” (Cass Sunstein, The New Republic).

Essential reading for anyone concerned with the future of human health and environmental protection, Priceless “shines a bright light on obstacles that stand in the way of good government decisions” (Public Citizen News).

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"As Frank Ackerman and Lisa Heinzerling point out . . . it is hardly clear why the same logic [of short term investments] should apply to the value of our great-grandchildren." &#8212Jim Holt, The New York Times Magazine

"Ackerman and Heinzerling combine sophisticated criticism and a provocative policy perspective with an accessible style and an eye for contemporary political issues." &#8212Harvard Law Review

"If you've ever wondered where some really bad ideas—more arsenic in your water, say—could have come from, this book will provide the answers." &#8212Bill McKibben, author of The End of Nature

Publishers Weekly
How does one put a cost on a human life? And what effect does air pollution have on our health? Ackerman and Heinzerling focus on such questions in this volume, a skeptical and instructive look at how economists put a dollar value on intangible risks and rewards. What sounds like a purely technical process has enormous political implications, thanks to the pervasive use of cost-benefit analysis in government decision making. Because this analysis is used to quantify the impact of often controversial regulatory and tax policies, the economists' numbers loom large in public policy, which Ackerman and Heinzerling clearly deplore. They've composed a lively and engaging attack, both well reasoned and well documented, on the myriad ways that these little-scrutinized figures are manipulated for political gain. While it's no surprise to anyone who has worked with statistics that numbers are frequently massaged to advance a particular point of view, the authors argue that in some cases the massaging leans toward misrepresentation or outright incompetence. For example, one study attempted to downplay the hazards of toxic waste dumps by noting that accidents with deer hurt more people every year; but then, there are many more deer than toxic waste dumps. This is a thoughtful book that is partisan but not strident; at the same time, it assumes a certain degree of mathematical sophistication. (Jan.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781565849815
  • Publisher: New Press, The
  • Publication date: 7/15/2005
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 277
  • Product dimensions: 0.65 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 5.25 (d)

Meet the Author


Frank Ackerman is an economist at the Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts University and author of Why Do We Recycle? He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Lisa Heinzerling is a professor at the Georgetown University Law Center, specializing in environmental law. She lives in Bethesda, Maryland.

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Table of Contents

1 Prices Without Values 1
2 Myths and Markets 13
3 The Unicorns of Deregulation 41
4 The $6.1 Million Question 61
5 An Ounce of Prevention 91
6 Dreadful Events 123
7 Unnatural Markets 153
8 Honey, I Shrunk the Future 179
9 Values Without Prices 205
Notes 235
Acknowledgments 265
Index 267
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