Edited by Scott O. Farrow and Richard Zerbe, Jr.
Chapter 8: Ethical benefit–cost analysis as art and science: ten rules for benefit–cost analysis
Benefit–cost analysis (BCA) is commonly viewed either as a mechanical tool for making decisions or as a failed technique of decision-making that avoids moral, interactive, and ethical components. Properly situated, it is neither. Benefit–cost analysis is an art form that can produce useful information with the potential to improve decision-making. To understand this we must consider current criticisms and come to another way of looking at BCA. Benefit–cost analysis is widely seen as a rule by which preferences and emotions are valued, yet how can a maxim encompass these? It is hardly surprising then, that BCA is the object of longstanding and expansive contumely and even repugnance. Yet it is widely esteemed by practical people, “mere men of business,” one might say. To put it crudely, BCA is generally approved, but is apt to be disparaged by those of a philosophic mind who see it as “a lust” for “mechanical objectivity.”
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