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Weighing private preferences in public sector safety decisions: some reflections on the practical application of the willingness-to-pay approach

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  31 May 2017

MICHAEL JONES-LEE
Affiliation:
Newcastle University, UK
TERJE AVEN
Affiliation:
University of Stavanger, Norway
Corresponding

Abstract

Viewed from both an ethical and practical perspective, it is clearly desirable that public sector allocative and regulatory decisions should, so far as possible, reflect the preferences of individual members of society. It is therefore hardly surprising that, in appraising proposed safety improvements, public sector bodies have displayed an increasing tendency to estimate the benefits of such improvements on the basis of values of safety defined in such a way as to reflect the preferences and attitudes to safety of individual members of the public. However, given the technical complexity of many public sector safety decisions, it is also necessary to rely on expert analysis and informed judgement in reaching such decisions, so that preference-based values of safety should be regarded as being only one input to the decision-making process. In addition, the definition and estimation of the values themselves raise a number of practical and ethical questions. The purpose of this paper is to consider the role that preference-based values of safety can realistically be expected to play in these decision-making processes, given these difficulties and limitations.

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Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2017 

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