New book for the book club
According to the Environment Protection Agency, a human life is worth $6.1 million. That estimate came out of cost-benefit analyses of arsenic from drinking water. Priceless, by Frank Ackerman and Lisa Heinzerling (2004), provides a fascinating look at the assumptions and questionable methodologies used to develop cost benefit analyses across fields. The costs of arsenic in drinking water, and resulting bladder cancer, was extrapolated from a survey conducted in a shopping mall in Greensboro, SC in the late 1980s asking shoppers how much they would be willing to pay to avoid chronic bronchitis. Apparently many cost benefit analyses are based on that same small survey of mall shoppers. How lives are valued in cost benefit analyses invite twisted ethical conclusions that would make most Americans cringe. A fascinating book that questions the ability of science to answer complex human questions.
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