IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/a/eee/ecolec/v106y2014icp124-131.html
   My bibliography  Save this article

Project evaluation with democratic decision-making: What does cost–benefit analysis really measure?

Author

Listed:
  • Nyborg, Karine

Abstract

It is often argued that projects involving public good changes should be chosen on the basis of monetary valuation and cost–benefit analysis (CBA). However, CBA is not value-free. When used to measure welfare, it is based on highly controversial value judgements. When used to measure efficiency, it is based on assumptions of limited relevance to democratic decision-making processes. CBA measures total net willingness to pay, neither more nor less. While interesting in its own right, the normative significance of this indicator is not obvious.

Suggested Citation

  • Nyborg, Karine, 2014. "Project evaluation with democratic decision-making: What does cost–benefit analysis really measure?," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 106(C), pages 124-131.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ecolec:v:106:y:2014:i:c:p:124-131
    DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2014.07.009
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0921800914002110
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version below or search for a different version of it.

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Betsey Stevenson & Justin Wolfers, 2008. "Economic Growth and Subjective Well-Being: Reassessing the Easterlin Paradox," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 39(1 (Spring), pages 1-102.
    2. Robin Boadway, 1976. "Integrating Equity and Efficiency in Applied Welfare Economics," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 90(4), pages 541-556.
    3. Oswald, Andrew J., 2008. "On the curvature of the reporting function from objective reality to subjective feelings," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 100(3), pages 369-372, September.
    4. Ian Bateman & Amii Harwood & David Abson & Barnaby Andrews & Andrew Crowe & Steve Dugdale & Carlo Fezzi & Jo Foden & David Hadley & Roy Haines-Young & Mark Hulme & Andreas Kontoleon & Paul Munday & Un, 2014. "Economic Analysis for the UK National Ecosystem Assessment: Synthesis and Scenario Valuation of Changes in Ecosystem Services," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 57(2), pages 273-297, February.
    5. Abbie A. Rogers & Marit E. Kragt & Fiona L. Gibson & Michael P. Burton & Elizabeth H. Petersen & David J. Pannell, 2015. "Non-market valuation: usage and impacts in environmental policy and management in Australia," Australian Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society, vol. 59(1), pages 1-15, January.
    6. Kjell Brekke & Hilde Lurå & Karine Nyborg, 1996. "Allowing disagreement in evaluations of social welfare," Journal of Economics, Springer, vol. 63(3), pages 303-324, October.
    7. Vidar Christiansen, 1981. "Evaluation of Public Projects under Optimal Taxation," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 48(3), pages 447-457.
    8. Karine Nyborg & Inger Spangen, 2000. "Cost-Benefit Analysis and the Democratic Ideal," Nordic Journal of Political Economy, Nordic Journal of Political Economy, vol. 26, pages 83-93.
    9. Robert W. Hahn & Paul C. Tetlock, 2008. "Has Economic Analysis Improved Regulatory Decisions?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 22(1), pages 67-84, Winter.
    10. Bromley, Daniel W., 1990. "The ideology of efficiency: Searching for a theory of policy analysis," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 19(1), pages 86-107, July.
    11. Nyborg, Karine, 2000. "Project analysis as input to public debate: Environmental valuation versus physical unit indicators," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 34(3), pages 393-408, September.
    12. Layard, R. & Mayraz, G. & Nickell, S., 2008. "The marginal utility of income," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(8-9), pages 1846-1857, August.
    13. Fredrik Carlsson & Dinky Daruvala & Olof Johansson-Stenman, 2005. "Are People Inequality-Averse, or Just Risk-Averse?," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 72(3), pages 375-396, August.
    14. Robin Boadway, 2010. "Efficiency and Redistribution: An Evaluative Review of Louis Kaplow's The Theory of Taxation and Public Economics," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 48(4), pages 964-979, December.
    15. Hylland, Aanund & Zeckhauser, Richard, 1979. " Distributional Objectives Should Affect Taxes but not Program Choice or Design," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 81(2), pages 264-284.
    16. Brekke, Kjell Arne, 1997. "The numeraire matters in cost-benefit analysis," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 64(1), pages 117-123, April.
    17. Quiggin, John, 1995. "The suboptimality of efficiency," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 47(3-4), pages 389-392, March.
    18. Robin Boadway, 2006. "Principles of Cost-Benefit Analysis," Public Policy Review, Policy Research Institute, Ministry of Finance Japan, vol. 2(1), pages 1-44, January.
    19. Charles Blackorby & David Donaldson, 1990. "A Review Article: The Case against the Use of the Sum of Compensating Variations in Cost-Benefit Analysis," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 23(3), pages 471-494, August.
    20. W. Michael Hanemann, 1994. "Valuing the Environment through Contingent Valuation," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 8(4), pages 19-43, Fall.
    21. Olof Johansson-Stenman, 2005. "Distributional Weights in Cost-Benefit Analysis—Should We Forget about Them?," Land Economics, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 81(3).
    22. Peter J. Hammond, 1979. "Straightforward Individual Incentive Compatibility in Large Economies," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 46(2), pages 263-282.
    23. Harberger, Arnold C, 1971. "Three Basic Postulates for Applied Welfare Economics: An Interpretive Essay," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 9(3), pages 785-797, September.
    24. James K. Hammitt, 2013. "Positive versus Normative Justifications for Benefit-Cost Analysis: Implications for Interpretation and Policy," Review of Environmental Economics and Policy, Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 7(2), pages 199-218, July.
    25. Nyborg, Karine, 2000. "Homo Economicus and Homo Politicus: interpretation and aggregation of environmental values," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 42(3), pages 305-322, July.
    26. van Praag, Bernard M. S., 1991. "Ordinal and cardinal utility : An integration of the two dimensions of the welfare concept," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 50(1-2), pages 69-89, October.
    27. Dreze, Jean & Stern, Nicholas, 1987. "The theory of cost-benefit analysis," Handbook of Public Economics,in: A. J. Auerbach & M. Feldstein (ed.), Handbook of Public Economics, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 14, pages 909-989 Elsevier.
    28. Robert W. Hahn & Robert E. Litan, 2005. "Counting Regulatory Benefits and Costs: Lessons for the US and Europe," Journal of International Economic Law, Oxford University Press, vol. 8(2), pages 473-508, June.
    29. Nyborg, Karine, 1998. "Some Norwegian Politicians' Use of Cost-Benefit Analysis," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 95(3-4), pages 381-401, June.
    30. Fridstrom, Lasse & Elvik, Rune, 1997. "The Barely Revealed Preference behind Road Investment Priorities," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 92(1-2), pages 145-168, July.
    31. Johansson,Per-Olov, 1993. "Cost-Benefit Analysis of Environmental Change," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521447928.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
    as


    Cited by:

    1. repec:eee:ecolec:v:139:y:2017:i:c:p:68-74 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Djukic, Malisa & Jovanoski, Iljcho & Ivanovic, Olja Munitlak & Lazic, Milena & Bodroza, Dusko, 2016. "Cost-benefit analysis of an infrastructure project and a cost-reflective tariff: A case study for investment in wastewater treatment plant in Serbia," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 59(C), pages 1419-1425.
    3. repec:kap:transp:v:44:y:2017:i:5:d:10.1007_s11116-016-9697-3 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Cost–benefit analysis; Ethics; Environmental quality; Democratic decision-making;

    JEL classification:

    • A11 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Role of Economics; Role of Economists
    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • D61 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Allocative Efficiency; Cost-Benefit Analysis
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • D7 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:ecolec:v:106:y:2014:i:c:p:124-131. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Dana Niculescu). General contact details of provider: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/ecolecon .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.