Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2012


This article presents two arguments against the “discounting” of future human lives as part of cost benefit analysis, or CBA. Our first argument is that because CBA has thus far ignored evidence of rising health care expenditures, it underestimates the “willingness to pay” for health and safety that future citizens will likely exhibit, thereby undervaluing their lives. Our second argument is that until recently CBA has ignored the trend of improved material conditions in developed countries, and most agencies continue to ignore it entirely. As time advances, residents of rich countries tend to live better and spend more, meaning that a strict economic evaluation of future lives would discount the relatively impoverished lives of present citizens compared to the projected luxurious and healthy existence of our expected descendents, just the opposite of what happens in agency practice.



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