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Cost-Benefit Analysis

Cost-benefit analysis (CBA) is a decisional technique that is now widely used by United States governmental bodies. CBA is “welfarist” and “commensurabilist”: it describes the various effects of governmental choices on human well-being and measures their impact on a single, monetary scale. CBA has its intellectual roots in welfare economics, specifically in the construct of Kaldor-Hicks efficiency, and much of the technical literature on CBA continues to see it as a device for implementing Kaldor-Hicks efficiency.

However, some recent scholarship argues that CBA is defensible quite apart from Kaldor-Hicks efficiency. Whatever the defense, CBA is controversial. Some have criticized it for equating welfare with preference satisfaction; for ignoring the distribution of welfare; for ignoring nonwelfarist considerations; for commensurating goods that are “incommensurable”; and for having ...

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