Document Type

Book Review

Comments

Environmental Faust Succumbs to Temptations of Economic Mephistopheles, or, Value By Any Other Name is Preference, 87 Michigan Law Review 1631 (1989)

Abstract

In several of the chapters to his new book, Mark Sagoff begins by telling some story to frame the remainder. One of these is particularly significant for the book: Sagoff retells a New Yorker joke in which the Devil tells the new entrants to Hell that they are leaving right and wrong behind, and entering a world of mere preferences (p. 99). The Devil signifies for Sagoff the economics-oriented policy analyst, and the story is prophetic because by the end of the book, that old preference-counting Devil has caught up with Sagoff.

The word "environment" appeared in the titles of several of the earlier essays on which the book is based, but the book has wisely subordinated that E-word to a subtitle; despite the frequent invocation of natural wonders and scenic areas, the book doesn't really focus on the environment until the last chapter. Nope, this book is about that other E-word, Economics, which is so favored by the Devil. More specifically, at least until that last chapter, the book is about how devilishly daffy economists are when they talk about the environment. Sagoff thinks their clever confusions are at best distracting and at worst antidemocratic (pp. 10, 95-97), and if we don't watch out, they are going to lead us off the ethical path and straight down the road to perdition.

Date of Authorship for this Version

1989

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