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Cost-Benefit Analysis, Incommensurability and Rough Equality

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  • Jonathan Aldred
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    Abstract

    A recurring question about cost-benefit analysis (CBA) concerns its scope. CBA is a decision-making method frequently employed in environmental policy-making, in which things which have no market price are treated as if they were commodities. They are given a monetary value, a form of price. But it is widely held that some things cannot be meaningfully priced, thus substantially limiting the scope of CBA. The aim of this paper is to test some aspects of this broad claim, focusing on problems of incomparability and incommensurability. In particular, the role of rough equality as a putative form of comparison is investigated. I argue that while an assessment of the full significance of rough equality for practical decision-making awaits resolution of a number of important technical questions, it does not provide a strong enough form of comparison to support CBA.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by White Horse Press in its journal Environmental Values.

    Volume (Year): 11 (2002)
    Issue (Month): 1 (February)
    Pages: 27-47

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    Handle: RePEc:env:journl:ev11:ev1102

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    Related research

    Keywords: environmental valuation; cost-benefit analysis; incomparability; incommensurability; commodification; rough equality;

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    1. > Schools of Economic Thought, Epistemology of Economics > Heterodox Approaches > Ecological Economics > Environmental Values
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    Cited by:
    1. Mouter, Niek & Annema, Jan Anne & Wee, Bert van, 2013. "Attitudes towards the role of Cost–Benefit Analysis in the decision-making process for spatial-infrastructure projects: A Dutch case study," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 58(C), pages 1-14.
    2. Lázaro-Touza, Lara & Atkinson, Giles, 2013. "Nature, roads or hospitals? An empirical evaluation of ‘sustainable development preferences’," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(C), pages 63-72.

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