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The precautionary principle. Between social norms and economic constructs

  • Olivier Godard

    (CECO - Laboratoire d'econometrie de l'école polytechnique - CNRS - Polytechnique - X)

This paper matches interpretations of the precautionary principle coming from two horizons: economic theory of risk framed in a Bayesian framework, and social heuristic concepts validated by public European and domestic institutions. Although they share some common features, it is shown that concepts and scopes differ a lot. In spite of this difference, analytical economics provide useful insights on key controversial questions for the implementation of this principle as a social norm. Examples concern the reversibility of precautionary measures, the issue of direct application to all individual agents versus reserved application to public bodies, and the burden of bringing appropriate scientific inputs.

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Paper provided by HAL in its series Working Papers with number hal-00243008.

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Date of creation: 2005
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Handle: RePEc:hal:wpaper:hal-00243008
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  1. Ben S. Bernanke, 1983. "Irreversibility, Uncertainty, and Cyclical Investment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 98(1), pages 85-106.
  2. Miles S. Kimball, 1989. "Precautionary Saving in the Small and in the Large," NBER Working Papers 2848, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Dixit, Avinash K, 1989. "Entry and Exit Decisions under Uncertainty," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(3), pages 620-38, June.
  4. Alban Richard & Michel Trommetter, 2001. "Les caractéristiques d'une décision séquentielle. Effet irréversibilité et endogénéisation de l'environnement," Revue économique, Presses de Sciences-Po, vol. 52(3), pages 739-752.
  5. Michael Grubb & Chapuis Thierry & Minh Ha-Duong, 1995. "The economics of changing course: implications of adaptability and inertia for optimal climate policy," Post-Print halshs-00002455, HAL.
  6. Chris Starmer, 2000. "Developments in Non-expected Utility Theory: The Hunt for a Descriptive Theory of Choice under Risk," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 38(2), pages 332-382, June.
  7. Henry, Claude, 1974. "Investment Decisions Under Uncertainty: The "Irreversibility Effect."," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 64(6), pages 1006-12, December.
  8. Hourcade, Jean-Charles & Salles, Jean-Michel & Thery, Daniel, 1992. "Ecological economics and scientific controversies. Lessons from some recent policy making in the EEC," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 6(3), pages 211-233, December.
  9. Gollier, Christian & Jullien, Bruno & Treich, Nicolas, 2000. "Scientific progress and irreversibility: an economic interpretation of the 'Precautionary Principle'," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 75(2), pages 229-253, February.
  10. Minh Ha-Duong & Michael Grubb & Jean Charles Hourcade, 1997. "Influence of socioeconomic inertia and uncertainty on optimal CO2-emission abatement," Post-Print halshs-00002452, HAL.
  11. Gollier, Christian & Treich, Nicolas, 2003. "Decision-Making under Scientific Uncertainty: The Economics of the Precautionary Principle," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 27(1), pages 77-103, August.
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