At the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima or Why Political Questions Are Not All Economic

Lewiston, New York, a well-to-do community near Buffalo, is the site of the Lake Ontario Ordinance Works, where the federal government, years ago, disposed of residues from the Manhattan Project. These radioactive wastes are buried but not forgotten by the residents, who say that when the wind is southerly, radon gas blows through the town. Several parents at a conference I attended described their terror on learning that cases of leukemia had been found among area children. They feared for...

Two Conceptions Of Legitimacy

Consider, by way of contrast, what I have called a Kantian conception of value.37 The individual, for Kant, is a judge of values, not a mere haver of wants, and the individual judges not merely for himself or herself but as a member of a relevant community or group. The central idea in a Kantian approach to ethics is that some values are more reasonable than others and therefore have a better claim upon the assent of members of the community as such.38 The world of obligation, like the world of...

Money And Meaning

The things we cherish, admire, or respect are not always the things we are willing to pay for. Indeed, they may be cheapened by being associated with money. It is fair to say that the worth of the things we love is better measured by our unwillingness to pay for them. Consider, for example, love itself. A civilized person might climb the highest mountain, swim the deepest river, or cross the hottest desert for love, sweet love. He might do anything, indeed, except be willing to pay for it. The...

The Invisible Hand And Economic

Ever since Adam Smith, economists have applied two theoretical constructs - the Invisible Hand and the Economic Man - to understand the functioning of an economy. The theory of the Invisible Hand explains how within a specific set of institutional arrangements the power of self-interest can spontaneously generate patterns of social order that simultaneously achieve individual autonomy, generalized prosperity, and social peace.55 According to this approach, the economic problem is one of...

The Oopound Gorilla

For over thirty years, Americans engaged in making environmental policy primarily - though not exclusively - through what might be called the pattern of legislate and litigate. Having the advantage of an outpouring of aspirational environmental statutes enacted in the 1970s, environmental organizations sued governmental agencies to force them to apply these laws. Environmental organizations staffed up with economists, scientists, lawyers, and policy analysts to represent before Congress,...

Consumer And Citizen Preferences

The consumer interests or preferences of my students are typical of those of Americans in general. Most Americans like a warm bed better than a pile of wet leaves at night. They would rather have their meals prepared in a kitchen than cook them over a camp stove. Disney's market analysts knew all this. They found that the resort would attract more than 14,000 tourists a day, in summer and winter alike, which is a lot more people than now hike into Mineral King.3 The tourists would pay to use...

The Thesis Of This Book

The argument I have presented so far is not original. It is commonplace to observe that environmentalists - including many ecologists and conservation biologists - care about the preservation of nature and the control of pollution for ethical, aesthetic, and spiritual reasons. These environmentalists rightly profess that society has an obligation to preserve nature as an end in itself and for its own sake and to control pollution as a matter of protecting rights of person and property against...

The Underlying Tautology

The centrality of moral commitment or judgment in human behavior, as Sen among others has shown, points to a difference between two ways in which one may think of the relation - the ordering or ranking - of preferences. First, one may define this relation as the way rational choice is to be explained. In this purely formal, positive, and non-normative representation of preference, one would say that if agent S chooses a over b, S prefers a to b, and one may introduce measures of WTP to give a...

Who We Are And What We Want

Public policy for the environment, workplace safety, and public health is and ought to be grounded in what Richard Andrews calls the philosophy of normative constraints. He explains In this conceptual framework, government is not simply a corrective instrument at the margins of economic markets but a central arena in which the members of society choose and legitimize their collective values. The principal purposes of legislative action are to weigh and affirm social values and to define and...

The Lauderdale Paradox

In 1819, James Maitland, Lord Lauderdale, reasoned that any good that nature provides plentifully and freely, no one has any reason to purchase. It cannot fetch a price in a competitive market, even where markets for it exist, and so it has no exchange value - this is, no one can get anything in exchange for it. The result is a paradox. The more freely and lavishly nature benefits us, the lower the price the marginal unit of a natural product or service will fetch or, to say the same thing in...

Can We Put a Price on Natures Services

In 1962, the Drifters, a popular rock 'n' roll group, sang At night the stars put on a show for free, And darling, you can share it all with me Nature provides many products and services that we, like the Drifters, enjoy for free. But, as Thomas Paine said about liberty, What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly. Ecologists point out that the goods and services that nature provides in support of an economy - such as the cycling of nutrients for the production of renewable resources like...

Chapter Introduction

A New Yorker cartoon depicts a pair of Puritans in stiff collars, doublets, and cloaks leaning over the rail of the Arbella as it made landfall in the New World. One says, My immediate goal is to worship God and celebrate His Creation, but long-term, I plan to get into real estate. The cartoon presents two visions of the natural world. On the one hand, we may regard nature as sacred, as having a value in itself, a history, autonomy, and diversity that command our appreciation and respect. On...