Are All Lives Equal? Why Cost-Benefit Analysis Values Rich Lives More and How Philosophy Can Fix It
According to economists, saving the life of a single American is just as beneficial to society as saving the lives of 2 Saudis, 5 Romanians, 10 Macedonians, 35 Indians, 69 Haitians, 90 Sierra Leoneans, or 148 Liberians. Why do economists think that, to judge if your life is worth saving, they must first check your pocketbook? Why do so many organizations, from the United States Government and the World Bank to the Gates Foundation and the United Nations (many of whom claim to hold the equality of life as sacrosanct) agree that when you check the numbers, rich lives are just worth more? Are All Lives Equal? investigates how economics has come unbound from its philosophical and ethical foundations. It explores why economists support policy frameworks that would let hundreds of poor people die to save a single rich person. Unlike many philosophical treatises on economics, this book does not advocate blindly discarding the useful tools of Cost-Benefit Analysis and the Value of a Statistical Life. Instead, it strives to thread the needle between economics and philosophy, advocating for reforming the way governments measure benefit by making the system both more accurate and more just. With over 40 new, original, thought experiments, this book is engaging and accessible to everyone, from economists that know nothing of philosophy, to philosophers that know nothing of economics, to all of us skeptics in between that know nothing of either.