Illustrative image for A Guided Tour through Inevitable Value Judgments

A Guided Tour through Inevitable Value Judgments

Two essays in the special report, Governance of Emerging Technologies: Aligning Policy Analysis with Social Values, offer contrasting insiders’ views of how the public’s values are treated in evidence-based impact assessment tools. Brian Mannix, of George Washington University’s Regulatory Studies Program, presents cost-benefit analysis as a “normative science”—a largely objective method for identifying the public’s values with respect to a policy decision—while Adam Finkel, of the University of Pennsylvania Law School, argues that CBA is not an objective method, that in determining the public’s values CBA covertly depends on values—and that its usefulness for identifying the public’s values depends on making the right decisions about the values it introduces.

In “A Guided Tour through Inevitable Value Judgments,” which forms the second half of his essay, Finkel discusses 65 value-laden decisions that must be made in the course of policy analysis. Finkel writes, “I provide detailed discussions of the genesis of each judgment as it is most commonly made in CBA; I explain how the judgment is rationalized or hidden;  and I present one or more alternative judgments that could be made instead.”

The full text of Finkel’s analysis is available to the public at page S30 of his article, “Demystifying Evidence-Based Policy Analysis: Revealing Hidden Value-Laden Constraints.”