Mark Sagoff: “At the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, or Why Political Questions Are Not All Economic”, assignment help (1.5 pages to 2)

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Mark Sagoff:  “At the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, or
Why Political Questions Are Not All Economic”

Notes
on the Sagoff Article 

CBA (Cost-benefit analysis) theory says
that public money should be spent on programs that will produce the largest
aggregate benefits. 

Basing policy decisions on CBA is supposed to insure
impartiality and legitimate the role of policy makers.

The goal of a cost-benefit analysis is to determine
whether the overall financial gain from a program will be greater than the cost
of implementing it.

Sagoff says we are not just consumers (i.e., bearers of costs and benefits whose preferences
can only be determined objectively based on determining what we are willing to
pay for something); we are also citizens,
or persons in the political and moral sense.

Example: I can want cheap gas for myself as an
individual consumer, yet vote for higher gas taxes for everyone as a
citizen. 

Sagoff asks what the justification is for adopting CBA
theory as our ultimate guide for policy-making decisions. 

Sagoff distinguishes between a CBA approach to making
policy decisions and a cost-effectiveness approach to implementing public
policy decisions. 

Sagoff rejects a consequentialist-based ethics (in
particular, he rejects the preference utilitarianism that seems to be
presupposed by CBA theory) in favor of a Kantian conception of value according
to which at least some values are objective (perhaps moral values, in
particular).

CBA theory seems to assume, in particular, that the
only way to make policy decisions objective/impartial is by basing them on a
cost-benefit analysis, since all values (cultural, historical, aesthetic,
moral) are subjective.  (In this context,
a ‘subjectivist’ is someone who holds that all moral claims are relative to
individual preferences, and so are not true independently of what particular
individuals may believe about them).  So,
the adoption of CBA theory is not value-neutral (bottom page 673, top page
674).

Here
are some of the more important passages to pay attention to in the Sagoff
reading:

What sorts of values are public values driven by
public concerns rather than private values driven by self-interest?  Cultural, historical, aesthetic, moral—“they
depend not so much on what each person wants individually as upon what he or
she believes we stand for collectively.” (674, left)

“The role of the legislator,
the political role, may be more important to the individual than the role of consumer.  The person, in other words, is not to be
treated as merely a bundle of preferences to be juggled in cost-benefit
analyses.  The individual is to be
respected as an advocate of ideas which are to be judged in relation to the
reasons for them.”  (p. 673)

“Nowhere are the rights of the moderns, particularly
the rights of privacy and property, less helpful than in the area of the
natural environment.  Here the values we
wish to protect—cultural, historical, aesthetic, and moral—are public values;
they depend not so much upon what each person wants individually as upon what
he or she believes we stand for collectively. 
We refuse to regard worker health and safety as commodities; we regulate
hazards as a matter of right.”  (p. 674)

“If health and environmental statutes reflect a vision
of society as something other than a market by requiring protections beyond
what are efficient, then this may express not legislative ineptitude but
legislative responsiveness to public values. 
To deny this vision because it is economically inefficient is simply to
replace it with another vision.”  (p.
673)

“It is the characteristic of cost-benefit analysis
that it treats all value judgments other than those made on its behalf as
nothing but statements of preference, attitude, or emotion, insofar as they are
value judgments.  The cost-benefit
analyst regards as true the judgment that we should maximize efficiency or
wealth.  The analyst believes that this
view can be backed by reason; the analyst does not regard it as a preference or
want for which he or she must be willing to pay.  The cost-benefit analyst, however, tends to
treat all other normative views and recommendations as if they were nothing but
subjective reports of mental states.” 
(p. 674)

“The individual, for Kant, is a judge of values, not a
mere haver of wants, and the individual judges not for himself or herself
merely, but as a member of a relevant community or group.  The central idea in a Kantian approach to
ethics is that some values are more reasonable than others, and therefore have
a better claim upon the assent of members of a community as such.” (p. 675)

“Consider, by way of contrast, a Kantian conception of
value.  The individual, for Kant, is a
judge of values, not a mere haver of wants, and the individual judges not for
himself or herself merely, but as a member of a relevant community or
group.  The central idea in a Kantian
approach to ethics is that some values are more reasonable than others and
therefore have a better claim upon the assent of members of the community as
such.”  (p. 675)

“Thus Kant discusses valuation in the context not of
psychology but of cognition.  He believes
that a person who makes a value judgment—or a policy recommendation—claims to
know what is right and not just what
is preferred.  A value judgment is like an empirical or
theoretical judgment in that it claims to be true, not merely to be felt.”
(p. 675)

“Our failures to make the right decisions in these
matters are failures in arithmetic, failures in wisdom, failures in taste,
failures in morality—but not market failures. 
There are no relevant markets to have failed.  What separates these questions from those for
which markets are appropriate is this. 
They involve matters of knowledge, wisdom, morality, and taste that
admit of better or worse, right or wrong, true or false—and these concepts
differ from that of economic optimality.” 
(p. 676)

“The result of this is to deny the individual status
as a cognitive being capable of responding intelligently to reasons; it reduces
him or her to a bundle of affective states. 
What Rogers’ therapist does to the patient the cost-benefit analyst does
to society as a whole.  The analyst is
neutral among our “values”—having first imposed a theory of what value is.  This is a theory that is impartial among
values and for that reason fails to treat the persons who have them with
respect or concern.  It does not treat
them as persons but only as locations at which wants may be found.”  (p. 676)

“A market, or quasi-market approach to arithmetic, for
example, is plainly inadequate.  No
matter how much people are willing to pay, three will never be the square root
of six…Similarly, we do not decide to execute murderers by asking how much
bleeding hearts are willing to pay to see a person pardoned and how much hard
hearts are willing to pay to see him hanged. 
Our failures to make the right decisions in these matters…are failures
in morality…not market failures.  There
are no relevant markets to have failed.” 
(p. 676)

“What separates these questions from those for which
markets are appropriate is this: They involve matters of knowledge, wisdom,
morality, and taste that admit of better or worse, right or wrong, true or
false—and these concepts differ from that of economic optimality.  Surely environmental questions—the protection
of wilderness, habitats, water, land, and air as well as policy toward
environmental safety and health—involve moral and aesthetic principles and not
just economic ones.”  (p. 676)

Sagoff
Paper Topic

How does a Kantian conception of value differ from the
conception of value embodied in cost-benefit analyses?  Why does Sagoff favor the Kantian conception
of value over the utilitarian view?

Your paper
should be double-spaced, with one-inch margins, using 12-point font, and no
longer than two pages.  Citations from
the readings can be made by simply citing the relevant page numbers from the
text parenthetically at the end of a sentence or paragraph. Your only sources
in answering the questions should be the article and the video from Singer, and
the notes provided in this document.  In
particular, you should not use any secondary sources from the Internet.