Why Care About the Polar Bear? Economic Analysis of Natural Resources Law and Policy

Evolution of Natural Resources Law and Policy, 2008

Georgetown Law and Economics Research Paper No. 1026288

28 Pages Posted: 1 Nov 2007

Abstract

Cost-benefit analysis has not yet steamed through natural resources policy the way it has through the policy of pollution control. Given its popularity in the latter context, however, it is worthwhile to consider whether it would be a good idea to extend the use of cost-benefit analysis to natural resources law and policy. In this book chapter, I argue that this would not be a good idea. Using the polar bear as my example, I show that the conventional economic value of a species the public appears to regard as extremely valuable is probably quite low. Moreover, even if the value derived from economic analysis were high, economic analysis would miss many of the reasons why we might care about the polar bear and thus would provide a poor reflection of true value. Public goods, the future, natural interconnectedness, irreversible and discontinuous events, and the moral dimension are all poorly captured, if at all, by economic analysis. Yet these characteristics and consequences lie at the heart of the resource protection mission. Cost-benefit analysis captures the small things tolerably well but misses the large ones. The picture it gives of value is distorted, and we are better off - and have better information - without it.

Keywords: administrative law, environmental law, natural resources law

Suggested Citation

Heinzerling, Lisa, Why Care About the Polar Bear? Economic Analysis of Natural Resources Law and Policy. Evolution of Natural Resources Law and Policy, 2008; Georgetown Law and Economics Research Paper No. 1026288. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1026288

Lisa Heinzerling (Contact Author)

Georgetown University Law Center ( email )

600 New Jersey Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001
United States

Register to save articles to
your library

Register

Paper statistics

Downloads
282
Abstract Views
1,523
rank
107,085
PlumX Metrics