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Comment: Does benefit cost analysis stand alone? rights and standing


  • Richard O. Zerbe

    (Professor in the Graduate School of Public Affairs and Adjunct Professor at the School of Law and also the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Washington)


The issue of standing in benefit cost analysis is not different from the issue of rights. Benefit cost analysis contributes to legal analysis and also rests upon legal analysis. Debates about standing issues can be reinterpreted as questions of the role of benefit cost analysis when rights are uncertain at the margin. This perspective illumines such questions as whether gains to the criminal count and what weight should be given to expert opinion, to irrational fears, and to gains or losses by foreigners. This perspective is also consistent with a rights-based interpretation of 1) the willingness-to-pay approach, 2) an approach that considers distributional consequences, and 3) an approach that ignores distributional consequences when the costs of determining them are likely to be greater than the benefits.

Suggested Citation

  • Richard O. Zerbe, 1991. "Comment: Does benefit cost analysis stand alone? rights and standing," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 10(1), pages 96-105.
  • Handle: RePEc:wly:jpamgt:v:10:y:1991:i:1:p:96-105
    DOI: 10.2307/3325515

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Richard Thaler & William Gould, 1982. "Public policy toward life saving: Should consumer preferences rule?," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 1(2), pages 223-242.
    2. William N. Trumbull, 1990. "Reply to whittington and macRae," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 9(4), pages 548-550.
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    Cited by:

    1. Richard W. Dunford & F. Reed Johnson & Emily S. West, 1997. "Whose Losses Count In Natural Resource Damages?," Contemporary Economic Policy, Western Economic Association International, vol. 15(4), pages 77-87, October.
    2. Campbell, Harry F. & Brown, Richard P.C., 2005. "A multiple account framework for cost-benefit analysis," Evaluation and Program Planning, Elsevier, vol. 28(1), pages 23-32.
    3. Richard O. Zerbe, 1998. "Is cost-benefit analysis legal? Three rules," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 17(3), pages 419-456.
    4. Jonathan A. Lesser & Richard O. Zerbe, 1994. "Discounting procedures for environmental (and other) projects: A comment on Kolb and Scheraga," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 13(1), pages 140-156.
    5. Zerbe, Richard Jr. & Bauman, Yoram & Finkle, Aaron, 2006. "An aggregate measure for benefit-cost analysis," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 58(3), pages 449-461, June.

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