150 U. Pa. L. Rev. 1553 (2001-2002)
Pricing the Priceless: Cost-Benefit Analysis of Environmental Protection

handle is hein.journals/pnlr150 and id is 1567 raw text is: PRICING THE PRICELESS: COST-BENEFIT ANALYSIS
OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION
FRANK ACKERMANt & LISA HEINZERLINGt
INTRODUCTION
Many analytical approaches to setting environmental standards
require some consideration of costs and benefits. Even technology-
based regulation, maligned by cost-benefit enthusiasts as the worst
form of regulatory excess, typically entails consideration of economic
costs. Cost-benefit analysis differs, however, from other analytical ap-
proaches in the following respect: it demands that the advantages and
disadvantages of a regulatory policy be reduced, as far as possible, to
numbers, and then further reduced to dollars and cents. In this fea-
ture of cost-benefit analysis lies its doom. Indeed, looking closely at
the products of this pricing scheme makes it seem not only a little
cold, but a little crazy as well.
Consider the following examples, which we are not making up.
They are not the work of a lunatic fringe, but, on the contrary, they
reflect the work products of some of the most influential and reputa-
ble of today's cost-benefit practitioners. We are not sure whether to
laugh or cry; we find it impossible to treat these studies as serious con-
tributions to a rational discussion.
Several years ago, states were in the middle of their litigation
against tobacco companies, seeking to recoup the medical expendi-
tures they had incurred as a result of smoking. At that time, W. Kip
Viscusi-a professor of law and economics at Harvard and the primary
source of the current $6.3 million estimate for the value of a statistical
life'-undertook research concluding that states, in fact, saved money
t Research Director, Global Development and Environment Institute, Tufts Uni-
versity.
 Professor of Law, Georgetown University Law Center.
This Article explores ideas more fully presented in our forthcoming book,
PRICELESS: HUMAN HEALTH, THE ENVIRONMENT, AND THE LIMITS OF THE MARKET
(forthcoming 2002). This Article also draws upon a monograph of the same title pub-
lished by the Georgetown Environmental Law and Policy Institute in 2002.
W. Kip Viscusi, RATIONAL RISK POLICY 46 (1998).

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