Priceless: On Knowing the Price of Everything and the Value of Nothing

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Embraced by an increasing number of politicians as a reasonable tool for weighing public policy options, cost-benefit analysis assigns monetary values to everything from the prevention of disease, to a stable climate, to the protection of endangered species. Although our common sense tells us that these things exist outside the realms of the market, this destructive form of economic analysis is based on the flawed premise that everything has a price. By substituting ill-advised economic algorithms for informed ...
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Overview

Embraced by an increasing number of politicians as a reasonable tool for weighing public policy options, cost-benefit analysis assigns monetary values to everything from the prevention of disease, to a stable climate, to the protection of endangered species. Although our common sense tells us that these things exist outside the realms of the market, this destructive form of economic analysis is based on the flawed premise that everything has a price. By substituting ill-advised economic algorithms for informed policymaking, proponents of cost-benefit analysis repeatedly reject public health and environmental protection based on their stingy assessments of benefits and vastly exaggerated estimates of costs. Co-authored by economist Frank Ackerman and lawyer Lisa Heinzerling, Priceless is the first comprehensive rebuttal of the Bush administration's market-based assault on human health, environmental protection, and conservation. Debunking cost-benefit analysis and the intrinsically flawed economic theories used to justify it, Ackerman and Heinzerling signal the dangers in allowing an artificial bottom line to distinguish right from wrong in public policy.
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Editorial Reviews

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: 9781565848504
  • Publisher: New Press, The
  • Publication date: 1/2/2004
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

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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