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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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Frank Ackerman and Lisa Heinzerling's book Priceless takes a critical look at the economic method of cost-benefit analysis which is often used to direct policy and behavioral decisions regarding health, the environment and social values. The authors' primary conclusion is that such analysis is often far too opaque to be relevant. Additionally, most cost-benefit analysis is unreflective of the true values of human health, life, ecosystems and other `priceless' elements these methodologies often deal with. It's argued that using cost-benefit analysis too often leads to sub-optimal and unjust outcomes. These outcomes are rationalized only by an academic exercise where everything is deduced to monetary terms.
The book does an excellent job presenting current-day policy decisions and breaking down the assumptions and arguments that led to their adoption. In doing so, Ackerman and Heinzerling show that the `pro-free market' mantra championed by business interests, and...
Although sometimes threatened by dry matters of obscure economics, here Ackerman and Heinzerling manage to keep their intriguing moral arguments in full view. The authors convincingly condemn the cost-benefit analysis that has become fashionable for the current administration, and corporations, when evaluating public health and environmental regulations. Such economic practices have resulted in embarrassing, and frankly inhuman, corporate decision making – the most famous example being the case of the Ford Pinto in which the company decided not to fix a minor defect in design because the lives of the people who could potentially be killed were (economically) worth less than the up-front costs. This type of heartless economic analysis is now being used by the Bush administration, and especially the imperious Office of Management and Budget, to "evaluate" all existing and proposed regulations, particularly any advanced by the EPA or other politically targeted agencies. Hence, all...
If someone tells you that a regulation will cost $100 million but produce only $50 million in benefits, you'd probably think it was a good example of government bureaucrats running amok. But what if you then found out that what the regulation would really do was force polluters to cut emissions in order to prevent thousands of cases of life-threatening illness over the next three decades? And that the $50 million benefits "pricetag" was developed by a bunch of green-eyeshade types who regard each life as worth about $3 million, and who then use a statistical trick to make 87% of that value disappear? Ackerman and Heinzerling have written a brilliant and scary book that lays out in chilling detail just how widely such techniques are now being used in making decisions about when to adopt health and environmental safeguards - and when NOT to. They also reveal that many of the horror stories repeatedly trotted out by critics of environmental and health standards NEVER...
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