Values in Time Discounting

Science and Engineering Ethics 23 (5):1333-1349 (2017)
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Controversies about time discounting loom large in decisions about climate change. Prominently, a particularly controversial debate about time discounting in climate change decision-making has been conducted within climate economics, between the authors of Stern et al. and their critics :977–981, 2006; Weitzman in J Econ Lit XLV:703–724, 2007; Nordhaus in J Econ Lit XLV:686–702, 2007). The article examines the role of values in this debate. Firstly, it is shown that time discounting is a case in which values are key because it is at heart an ethical problem. Secondly, it is argued that time discounting in climate economics is a case of economists making frequent and routine references to ethical values and indeed conduct ethical debates with each other. Thirdly, it is argued that there is evidence for deep and pervasive entanglement between facts and values in the prevalent methodologies for time discounting. Finally, it is argued that this means that economists have given up the ‘value-free ideal’ concerning time discounting, and discussed how the current methodology of time discounting in economics can be improved.



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Conrad Heilmann
Erasmus University Rotterdam

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References found in this work

Reasons and Persons.Derek Parfit - 1984 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press.
Science, Policy, and the Value-Free Ideal.Heather Douglas - 2009 - University of Pittsburgh Press.
Reasons and Persons.Joseph Margolis - 1986 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 47 (2):311-327.
The collapse of the fact/value dichotomy and other essays.Hilary Putnam - 2002 - Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

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