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The Cost-Benefit State

University of Chicago Law School, John M. Olin Law & Economics, Working Paper No. 39

Posted: 12 Jun 1998  

Cass R. Sunstein

Harvard Law School; Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Date Written: May 1996

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

Sunstein, Cass R., The Cost-Benefit State (May 1996). University of Chicago Law School, John M. Olin Law & Economics, Working Paper No. 39. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=10083

Cass R. Sunstein (Contact Author)

Harvard Law School ( email )

1575 Massachusetts Ave
Areeda Hall 225
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-496-2291 (Phone)

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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