Tools of the Trade
Edited by Scott Farrow
Chapter 4: The concept of standing in benefit-cost analysis
It is sometimes said that benefit-cost analysis adds up impacts “to whomsoever they accrue”. But in practice that general guidance is more complex and it is the issue of “standing” that defines more precisely whose benefits and costs are to be counted. As in law, where to bring a suit one must have “standing” before the court; so too in benefit-cost analysis must conditions be described for what and whose benefits and costs count. Key issues involve not only whose preferences count (should “foreigners”?), but also which preferences (should criminal activity count?) and over what period of time? As with law, some answers are not clear-cut but can create useful and informative class discussion on sensitive topics.
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