The Philosophical Basis of Cost-Risk-Benefit Analyses

Abstract
Analytical techniques for determining the net worth of the consequences of alternative choices are increasingly used to motivate decisions about public projects and policies, especially where risks are prevalent. What information do these techniques provide, and what are the grounds for using them in decision making? It is argued that the apparent similarities of cost-risk-benefit analyses to decision theory are in some ways misleading, and that the true basis of such analyses in welfare economics suggests some inherent limitations to their use. The limitations described arise from the practice of aggregating individual preferences as determined by economic valuations; they restrict (but do not invalidate) the application of such analyses.
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