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Benefit-Cost in a Benevolent Society

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  • Theodore C. Bergstrom

Abstract

How should benefit-cost analysis account for the value that benevolent individuals place on others' enjoyment of public goods? When adding up the benefits to be compared with costs, should we sum the private valuations, the altruistic valuations, or something else? This paper argues that private valuations are appropriate if concern for the well-being of others respects their private preferences. The discussion has implications for family decision-making, welfare economics, and the design of applied contingent valuation studies.

Suggested Citation

  • Theodore C. Bergstrom, 2006. "Benefit-Cost in a Benevolent Society," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(1), pages 339-351, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:96:y:2006:i:1:p:339-351 Note: DOI: 10.1257/000282806776157623
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    1. Bergstrom, Theodore C., 1970. "A "Scandinavian consensus" solution for efficient income distribution among nonmalevolent consumers," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 2(4), pages 383-398, December.
    2. Carson, Richard T, 1999. "Contingent Valuation: A User's Guide," University of California at San Diego, Economics Working Paper Series qt2mw607q7, Department of Economics, UC San Diego.
    3. Thomas H. Stevens & Jaime Echeverria & Ronald J. Glass & Tim Hager & Thomas A. More, 1991. "Measuring the Existence Value of Wildlife: What Do CVM Estimates Really Show?," Land Economics, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 67(4), pages 390-400.
    4. Viscusi, W Kip & Aldy, Joseph E, 2003. "The Value of a Statistical Life: A Critical Review of Market Estimates throughout the World," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 27(1), pages 5-76, August.
    5. Bergstrom, Theodore C & Cornes, Richard C, 1983. "Independence of Allocative Efficiency from Distribution in the Theory of Public Goods," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 51(6), pages 1753-1765, November.
    6. Paul A. Samuelson, 1950. "Evaluation Of Real National Income," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 2(1), pages 1-29.
    7. McConnell, K. E., 1997. "Does Altruism Undermine Existence Value?," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 32(1), pages 22-37, January.
    8. Loomis, John B. & White, Douglas S., 1996. "Economic benefits of rare and endangered species: summary and meta-analysis," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(3), pages 197-206, September.
    9. Bergstrom, Ted, 1989. "Love and Spaghetti, the Opportunity Cost of Virtue," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 3(2), pages 165-173, Spring.
    10. Thomas H. Stevens & homas A. More & Ronald J. Glass, 1994. "Interpretation and Temporal Stability of CV Bids for Wildlife Existence: A Panel Study," Land Economics, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 70(3), pages 355-363.
    11. J. M. Bowker & John R. Stoll, 1988. "Use of Dichotomous Choice Nonmarket Methods to Value the Whooping Crane Resource," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 70(2), pages 372-381.
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    13. Winter, Sidney Jr., 1969. "A simple remark on the second optimality theorem of welfare economics," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 1(1), pages 99-103, June.
    14. Bergstrom, Theodore C, 1999. " Systems of Benevolent Utility Functions," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 1(1), pages 71-100.
    15. Jones-Lee, M W, 1991. "Altruism and the Value of Other People's Safety," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 4(2), pages 213-219, April.
    16. Chipman, John S & Moore, James C, 1980. "Compensating Variation, Consumer's Surplus, and Welfare," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, pages 933-949.
    17. Serge-Christophe Kolm, 2000. "A historical introduction to normative economics," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 17(4), pages 707-738.
    18. W. Michael Hanemann, 1994. "Valuing the Environment through Contingent Valuation," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 8(4), pages 19-43, Fall.
    19. Johansson, Per-Olov, 1994. "Altruism and the value of statistical life: Empirical implications," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 13(1), pages 111-118, March.
    20. Flores, Nicholas E., 2002. "Non-paternalistic altruism and welfare economics," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, pages 293-305.
    21. repec:reg:rpubli:282 is not listed on IDEAS
    22. Jones-Lee, M W, 1992. "Paternalistic Altruism and the Value of Statistical Life," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 102(410), pages 80-90, January.
    23. Dickie, Mark & Messman, Victoria L., 2004. "Parental altruism and the value of avoiding acute illness: are kids worth more than parents?," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 48(3), pages 1146-1174, November.
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    JEL classification:

    • D6 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics
    • D7 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making
    • H - Public Economics

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