Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Sorry Mr. House

Economists explicitly compare the "value of a statistical life" against other values (while policymakers do it all the time implicitly) and in a recent NYT letter an author decries the horrors of, "people who have always been told they are of less value than the resources they live above."

While the human toll is certainly real, so, I would suggest, is the human benefit. It's not true that the people are of less value than any one thing in particular, and no one wants to see the people living in Appalachia killed off. However, if they sat on a resource worth millions of dollars that would help people get cheaper power for decades, would it be wrong to ask them to move? That's actually the situation they are in, and while the direct cost to a few makes for better copy than the incremental benefit to a large number of people, it's not as easy to put their claims above those of industry. Perhaps memorializing their loss in an outlet such as the NYT is the most fitting response.

What do you think? Am I an unfeeling, heartless villain?

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