I think Sagoff is right in his perception and feeling of a distinct departure between one's economic-consumer self and one's moral-political self. As his examples show (p.501), and I think we can all relate to at least some of them as much as we may not want to, not all preferences are actually expressed through the market (I know I am always sure to go to the gas station with the lowest gas prices and my college-student wallet is happy when prices are low, but I am much happier when they're higher because then the resource is being more appropriately priced).
Given a conventional view of economists, one could imagine an economist stating that the most important/serious moral choices are those which one expresses monetarily (through
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In her example about how RCBA would "help" to evaluate the usefulness of a $200 increase in parking fees so a parking garage could be built, she gives a couple of examples of people whose opinions would be solicited and quantified so as to determine their compensating variations (CVs). She goes through the same exercise with a proposed dam, citing tourism industry versus wilderness experience advocates as being affected positively or negatively. "The theory is that the proposed dam is cost-beneficial if the sum of the CVs of the gainers can outweigh the sum of the CVs of the losers."(p.509)
Shrader-Frechette aptly shows criticisms to the three basic assumptions being used to justify CVs: that costs and benefits cannot necessarily be computed numerically for every individual, that distributional effects of an economic change are ignored through use of CVs, that summed preferences of individual members of a group do not necessarily reveal group welfare [emphasis in original], that wealthy and poor persons are not necessarily equally able to judge their well-being, that prices don't always measure values (p.510). However, she is missing a very large criticism. That the entire formula, and in fact the entire discussion surrounding RCBA, is completely and totally anthropocentric, such that environmental costs and values can never fully be taken into account.
People's (cost) preferences are taken as representing all interests in any