W. Kip Viscusi


The Article responds to the school of thought reflected in the book "Priceless: On Knowing the Price of Everything and the Value of Nothing" that opposes the economists' attempts to monetize the value of environmental amenities and the value of risks to life and health. It applies the value of statistical life ("VSL") concept to regulatory decisions in order to decide whether the adoption of a regulation makes economic sense. VSL measures the value of life, as judged by measuring the amount of risk of injury workers in a particular industry are willing to take on, and the costs associated with the regulation, in order to find whether the benefits are greater than the costs. It concludes that general surveys have shown people can rationally monetize the value of a clean environment, and in an administrative state that demands cost-benefit analysis, monetization of environmental benefits is essential to the formulation of policy.