Representative Government and Environmental Management

By Edwin T. Haefele | Go to book overview

3 Social Choices and Individual Preferences: Is There a Connecting Mechanism?

INTRODUCTION

When decisions are forced into collective choice mechanisms, it is not surprising that the decisions are colored by other decisions also in process of being made there. We are, collectively, concerned about welfare, and hence we may use decisions about environmental quality to advance a particular income redistribution scheme, say, improving water quality in a stream because poor blacks use it for swimming and fishing. We are, collectively, concerned about regional economic "balance" and may use decisions about environmental quality to advance a particular region, say, tying a flood control project in with a water navigation scheme to bring "low-cost" water transport to an area previously served only by rail, air, and road.

When we mix our motives for public investment, we are often subject to the apt criticism that our instruments are inefficient for the purposes. Perhaps swimming pools and food stamps can produce equal benefits to poor blacks at less cost than improved water quality. No doubt rail rates can be forced down more cheaply than by digging what are, in effect, canals for

____________________
Reprinted, with minor revision, by permission from J. R. Conner and E. Loehman, eds., Economics and Decision-Making for Environmental Quality ( Gainesville: University of Florida Press). Copyright 1973 by the State of Florida Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvements Fund. The paper was originally presented at the Seminar on Economics and Decision-Making for Environmental Quality, University of Florida, 23 February 1971.

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