Philosophical problems in cost–benefit analysis

Economics and Philosophy 23 (2):163-183 (2007)
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Abstract

Cost–benefit analysis (CBA) is much more philosophically interesting than has in general been recognized. Since it is the only well-developed form of applied consequentialism, it is a testing-ground for consequentialism and for the counterfactual analysis that it requires. Ten classes of philosophical problems that affect the practical performance of cost–benefit analysis are investigated: topic selection, dependence on the decision perspective, dangers of super synopticism and undue centralization, prediction problems, the indeterminateness of our control over future decisions, the need to exclude certain consequences for moral reasons, bias in the delimitation of consequences, incommensurability of consequences, difficulties in defending the essential requirement of transferability across contexts, and the normatively questionable but equally essential assumption of interpersonal compensability. (Published Online July 31 2007).

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Sven Ove Hansson
Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm

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