Description, prescription and the choice of discount rates
The choice of discount rates is a key issue in the analysis of long-term societal issues, in particular environmental issues such as climate change. Approaches to choosing discount rates are generally placed into two categories: the descriptive approach and the prescriptive approach. The descriptive approach is often justified on grounds that it uses a description of how society discounts instead of having analysts impose their own discounting views on society. This paper analyzes the common forms of the descriptive and prescriptive approaches and finds that, in contrast with customary thinking, both forms are equally descriptive and prescriptive. The prescriptions concern who has standing (i.e. who is included) in society, how the views of these individuals are measured, and how the measurements are aggregated. Such prescriptions are necessary to choose from among the many possible descriptions of how society discounts. The descriptions are the measurements made given a choice of measurement technique. Thus, the labels "descriptive approach" and "prescriptive approach" are deeply misleading, as analysts cannot avoid imposing their own views on society.
If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.
References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- William D. Nordhaus, 2009.
"An Analysis of the Dismal Theorem,"
Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers
1686, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
- Daniel Kahneman & Robert Sugden, 2005. "Experienced Utility as a Standard of Policy Evaluation," Environmental & Resource Economics, European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 32(1), pages 161-181, 09.
- Norgaard, Richard B., 1989. "The case for methodological pluralism," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 1(1), pages 37-57, February.
- Partha Dasgupta, 2008. "Discounting climate change," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 37(2), pages 141-169, December.
- Hannon, Bruce, 1998. "How might nature value man?," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 25(3), pages 265-279, June.
- Shane Frederick & George Loewenstein & Ted O'Donoghue, 2002. "Time Discounting and Time Preference: A Critical Review," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 40(2), pages 351-401, June.
- Dale Whittington & Duncan MacRae, 1986. "The issue of standing in cost-benefit analysis," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 5(4), pages 665-682.
- Mehra, Rajnish & Prescott, Edward C., 1985.
"The equity premium: A puzzle,"
Journal of Monetary Economics,
Elsevier, vol. 15(2), pages 145-161, March.
- Nelson, Julie A., 2008. "Economists, value judgments, and climate change: A view from feminist economics," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 65(3), pages 441-447, April.
- John O'Neill, 2001. "Representing people, representing nature, representing the world," Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy, Pion Ltd, London, vol. 19(4), pages 483-500, August.
- Hadi Dowlatabadi, 2007. "On integration of policies for climate and global change," Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change, Springer, vol. 12(5), pages 651-663, June.
- Viscusi, W Kip, 1993. "The Value of Risks to Life and Health," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 31(4), pages 1912-46, December.
- Proops, John L. R., 1989. "Ecological economics: Rationale and problem areas," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 1(1), pages 59-76, February.
- William D. Nordhaus, 2007. "A Review of the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 45(3), pages 686-702, September.
- Hansen, Anders Chr., 2006. "Do declining discount rates lead to time inconsistent economic advice?," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 60(1), pages 138-144, November.
- Amartya Sen, 1999. "The Possibility of Social Choice," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(3), pages 349-378, June.
- Nicholas Stern, 2008. "The Economics of Climate Change," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(2), pages 1-37, May.
- David Anthoff & Richard S. J. Tol & Gary W. Yohe, 2008. "Risk Aversion, Time Preference, and the Social Cost of Carbon," Papers WP252, Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).
When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:ecolec:v:69:y:2009:i:1:p:197-205. 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: (Zhang, Lei)
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.