This is a detailed treatment of approaches to setting environmental and health policy. The book begins with a lengthy treatment of cost-benefit analysis from various perspectives: methodological, empirical, and ethical. The author’s view is that cost-benefit analysis is primarily used as a tool to justify (the lack of) regulation of environmental and health hazards. From a methodological perspective he argues that the assignment of costs typically overstates the costs or fails to take into account the economies of scale that would take place when alternative technologies are applied to regulated practices and products; and that benefits are often understated by applying the notion of future-value devaluation to health benefits (including reduction in death rates) that will take place in the future. Ethically he questions the very idea of assigning dollar values to human life or health. Empirically he shows how costs have in fact been much more overstated than understated.
The remainder of the book consists of detailed case studies illustrating the flaws of cost-benefit analysis, and showing how alternative ways of evaluating proposed regulation would have better outcomes.