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The Machinery of GovernmentPublic Administration and the Liberal State$
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Joseph Heath

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780197509616

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780197509616.001.0001

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Cost-Benefit Analysis as an Expression of Liberal Neutrality

Cost-Benefit Analysis as an Expression of Liberal Neutrality

Chapter:
(p.187) 5 Cost-Benefit Analysis as an Expression of Liberal Neutrality
Source:
The Machinery of Government
Author(s):

Joseph Heath

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780197509616.003.0005

The past few decades have seen an expansion in the use of cost-benefit analysis as a tool for policy evaluation in the public sector. This slow, steady creep has been a source of consternation to many philosophers and political theorists, who are inclined to view cost-benefit analysis as simply a variant of utilitarianism and consider utilitarianism to be completely unacceptable as a public philosophy. The chapter shows that this impression is misleading. When construed narrowly, cost-benefit analysis does look a lot like utilitarianism. However, when it is seen in its broader context, in the way that it is applied, and the types of problem to which it is applied, it is better understood as an attempt by the state to avoid taking sides with respect to various controversial conceptions of the good.

Keywords:   cost-benefit analysis, Pareto efficiency, regulation, public goods, liberal neutrality, utilitarianism

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