The Cost-Benefit State
Cass R. Sunstein
Harvard Law School
University of Chicago Law School, John M. Olin Law & Economics, Working Paper No. 39
Gradually, and in fits and starts, the American regulatory state is becoming a cost-benefit state. This essay argues on behalf of the transformation, as a method for overcoming selective attention, public ignorance, "legislation by anecdote," and rent-seeking. At the same time it identifies three serious risks in current theory and practice: excessive proceduralism; engrafting cost-benefit requirements on top of existing command-and-control regulation; and using the criterion of private willingness to pay in contexts for which that criterion is ill-suited. The essay urges a shift from command-and-control to more flexible strategies, including "environmental contracting." It also attempts to identify and cast light on the most complex issues involving valuation of regulatory benefits.
Date posted: June 12, 1998
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