Human Survival, Risk, and Law: Considering Risk Filters to Replace Cost-Benefit Analysis

94 Pages Posted: 13 Mar 2016 Last revised: 19 May 2017

Date Written: 2016


Selfish utilitarianism, neo-classical economics, the directive of short-term income maximization, and the decision tool of cost-benefit analysis fail to protect our species from the significant risks of too much consumption, pollution, or population. For a longer-term survival, humanity needs to employ more than cost-justified precaution.

This article argues that, at the global level, and by extension at all levels of government, we need to replace neo-classical economics with filters for safety and feasibility to regulate against significant risk. For significant risks, especially those that are irreversible, we need decision tools that will protect humanity at all scales. This article describes both standards, their operations, and their interoperability. Further, it defends feasible risk reduction as an effective decision and regulatory tool.

Keywords: Risk, law and economics, markets, environment, decision filters, regulation, discounting, incommensurability, consent, moral fairness, subjectivity, maximization, irreversibility, precautionary principle, feasible risk reduction, safe level of risk imposition

JEL Classification: A11, A12, A13, D11, D61, D63, D81, K10, K32, P17, Q20, Q30

Suggested Citation

Draper, John William, Human Survival, Risk, and Law: Considering Risk Filters to Replace Cost-Benefit Analysis (2016). Fordham Environmental Law Review, Vol. 27, Pg. 301, 2016, U of Penn Law School, Public Law Research Paper No. 16-13, Available at SSRN:

John William Draper (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania ( email )

3501 Sansom Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

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