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4 Different Ways of Thinking about Value There are many reasons why people might care about biodiversity. The previous chapter developed two broad categories. The first category comprised biological values that embraced aspects ranging from biodiversity of wild systems, a broad group of direct value to humans called ecosystem services, and contributions to biotechnology and bioremediation. The second category comprised social and cultural values, placing particular emphasis on aesthetic appreciation, a sense of place, and the deep emotions associated with ethics and religion. Generalized human responses to biodiversity can be grouped into We might need it. In this category are the claims concerning the actual or potential usefulness of biodiversity: genetic resources for medicine, pharmacy, and agriculture; ecosystem services; and, ultimately, the continuity of life on Earth. We like it. In this category are the claims that biodiversity is a direct source of pleasure and aesthetic satisfaction: its contribution to quality of life, outdoor recreation, and scenic enjoyment; to preserving a sense of place; and to preserving refuges of wildness (wildlands and wild habitats). We think we ought to. In this category are the claims that people have duties to preserve and protect biodiversity—duties based on higher moral principles or on rights that are attributed to biodiversity or its living components. It is reasonable for any particular person to hold reasons in all three categories simultaneously. Reasons for action must be based on both positive and normative premise that is, on facts and on some concept of what is good. In the
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broad categories of reasons for caring about biodiversity, we have lumped motivations that derive from different understandings of the facts and different perceptions of the good. Motivations rooted in claims of usefulness and satisfaction of human preferences are recognized in Western philosophical systems, but there is sharp disagreement on how much weight should be accorded to such motivations. Usefulness, especially, depends on claims of fact, and there remains much dispute about many of the pertinent facts. When it comes to motivations based on aesthetics and moral duty, alternative philosophical systems differ as to how much weight such motivations should be accorded and as to the ethical foundations on which the motivations are based. It is no wonder that the public discussion of biodiversity issues is so extraordinarily susceptible to semantic confusion and talking at cross purposes. The objective of this chapter is to bring clarity to the discussion by characterizing the main traditions of Western ethical theory and developing briefly their implications for biodiversity. Consequentialism and Utilitarianism Consequentialism holds that right action is whatever produces good consequences. For consequentialists, practical ethics involves judging the consequences by possible actions. People might be inclined to differ about which of consequences are most important. To put consequentialism into action, a single scale for evaluating quite diverse consequences would be useful. Utilitarianism provides such a scale. Its basic premise is that whatever an individual wants is the best indicator of what is good for that individual. The consequences of different actions can be judged on a single scale: their contribution to preference satisfaction. To modern utilitarians, preferences summarize whatever motivations lead the individual to prefer one option to another and, given the opportunity, to choose the preferred option. It is a misconception to claim that utilitarianism counts only the satisfaction of instrumental needs (food and shelter, for example) and the selfish desires of individuals. Preferences might concern the public good and community values and might be the results of a long and searching process of introspection. An individual's preferences might well be the considered plan for a thoroughly examined life, but nothing requires that they be. In deference to individual autonomy, utilitarianism does not subject preferences to interpersonal review or to substantive tests against principle or reason. The individual's preference (or utility function) makes different options commensurable on the scale of preference satisfaction. The individual can adjust the bundle of goods and services chosen, making tradeoffs at the margin to maximize preference satisfaction. Given the budget constraint, individual willingness to
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pay—the amount of money that the individual would willingly pay to get a desired good, service, or state of the world (in total or at the margin,1 as the case might be)—expresses the individual's value of increments in goods and services, whereas willingness to accept—the amount of money that would induce the individual to willingly give up the good, service, or state of the world—expresses value for decrements. Utilitarians seek to provide an ethical framework for society as a whole, not just for individuals. Bentham (1986) offered the criterion of ''the greatest good for the greatest number". In modern times, that has been put into use in the benefit-cost criterion: right action is whatever maximizes the excess of benefits over costs, where benefits and costs are aggregated (unweighted) across individuals. The utilitarian criterion is related to markets in the following way: under ideal conditions, market prices are equal to marginal willingness to pay and to accept. Total willingness to pay and accept, however, includes also the consumers' surplus, which is seldom directly revealed by markets. In addition, markets often fail to reflect the full value of public goods and, for various reasons, can distort the value even of private goods. In the utilitarian system of valuation, preference satisfaction is fundamental, and market outcomes are of interest only to the extent that they provide a good account of contribution to preference satisfaction. Two major problems with utilitarianism must be discussed. First, as Mill noted (1987), "Socrates dissatisfied should have more moral weight than a pig satisfied". That is, it is a weakness of utilitarianism that preferences are not subject to interpersonal review or substantive tests against principle or reason. It seems unreasonable to assume, as utilitarians do, that any set of preferences is as worthy as any other. Second, as Rawls (1972) noted, utilitarianism does not take seriously the distinction between persons. The criterion of the greatest good for the greatest number might be satisfied by an action that causes great harm to a few to provide relatively trivial benefit to many. Some commentators would prefer an ethical framework that evinced more concern for the effects of social choice on individuals. Libertarianism and Contractarianism Libertarianism takes the distinction between persons very seriously. Libertarians find fault with the utilitarian judgment that the welfare of society is the aggregate welfare of its members. Utilitarians might be comfortable with a policy that hurt some people while helping others even more, but libertarians 1 Typically, willingness to pay is thought of "at the margin", that is, to preserve the next unit under threat. One could think about willingness to pay for biodiversity in total, but it would be a very large number and irrelevant for most policy purposes.
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emphasize the separateness and inviolability of the individual. From that perspective, the rights of person and property matter most. The basic libertarian principle is that people should be free to do as they like as long as they respect the similar freedom of others. Libertarians deplore coercion of any kind and therefore tolerate only as much government as is necessary to keep people from violating the rights of others. Tyranny begins when the government coerces citizens even "for their own good". Libertarians believe that markets are by far the best mechanisms for gathering and processing information about the value of everything—including biodiversity. Markets also secure liberty, make individuals accountable for their actions, and promote the virtues of competition. Libertarians therefore excoriate attempts by "scientific managers" to second-guess market outcomes through benefit-cost and other kinds of economic and policy analysis. There is not a dime's worth of difference, libertarians believe, between policies based on benefit-cost analysis and policies based on any other form of centralized planning. Libertarians regard pollution as a form of assault, trespass, or invasion; to impose my wastes on your person or property, libertarians believe, is to violate your personal and property rights (see boxes 4-1 and 4-2). Accordingly, libertarians approve policies that prevent, prohibit, or at least minimize pollution. They regard pollution-control law, therefore, as continuous with the common law of nuisance, which allows injunctive relief. BOX 4-1 Property Rights Property rights define the relationships among people with respect to the use of things. A well-specified and secure system of property rights is said to promote stability and order in society. Property rights that are exclusive wherever feasible promote markets and, as libertarians tell us, political freedom. In light of the current property-rights movement, it is well to remember that property rights are the creation of the government that defines and secures them, that they evolve in response to changing circumstances. Just as evolution and adaptation in property rights can be virtuous, so too can stability in property rights; and there is inevitable tension between these virtues. Some proposals from the current property-rights movement are not really about stability—that is, protecting existing property rights—but are about extending them in ways quite inconsistent with recent political history: broadening the conditions under which property-owners might demand compensation for private losses due to regulation in the public interest and reversing the quarter-century-old principle of "polluter pays". Similarly, the virtues of exclusiveness inevitably conflict with the virtue—especially powerful in the case of biodiversity—of breaking the isolation paradox. Innovative solutions are needed to resolve conflicts over biodiversity that arise from the isolation paradox.
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BOX 4-2 The Isolation Paradox The intuition that, for an important set of economic problems, coordinated action is essential and can lead to stable solutions is hardly new. Adam Smith discussed the case of 100 farmers in the upper end of a valley, beyond the reach of the existing barge canal. All would benefit from extending the canal. None could bear the cost alone, but each would enjoy benefits larger than one one-hundredth of the cost. Acting alone, each can do nothing, but everyone could enjoy a net benefit from coordinated action. The isolation paradox is the general name given to problems of this kind. An isolation paradox is present whenever individual action fails but there exists a cost allocation (not necessarily an equal sharing of costs, as in Smith's example) such that all parties would be better off with coordinated action than with no action at all. The essential idea is that where an isolation paradox exists, there is in principle the possibility of converting a conflict into a sustainable cooperative solution, and we might benefit from exploring that possibility. Solutions to the isolation paradox do not have to involve government or (even worse in today's political environment) big government. Individuals can act together to form and maintain clubs to get the job done. Many entities that call themselves clubs, such as the local health and fitness club, are actually private for-profit enterprises. Today, one can readily imagine a private entity resolving the canal-extension problem profitably—an option that did not occur to Adam Smith—just as "city water" is delivered to an individual home by an investor-owned corporation. The idea of the isolation paradox suggests an openness to solutions that invoke a variety of institutional forms: private enterprises, voluntary associations, and government from the most local level to the national scale and beyond. Given the centrality of information and coordination, the array of feasible institutions is continually shifting as information, communication, and exclusion technologies develop. For a particular problem, the appropriate institutions will be consistent with the dimensions and scale of the problem itself and with the prevailing technologies and political realities. To protect biodiversity, for example, one can conceive of private for-profit genetic reserves; nature reserves operated by corporations, voluntary associations, or governments; clubs supported by members and donors operating in markets to enhance both private and government conservation efforts; and government operating as facilitator of consensual agreements among stakeholders, as well as legislator, regulator, and resource manager. Flexibility is the key in both institutional forms and the incentives those institutions transmit. Although the libertarian defense of the individual against coercion is compatible with environmentalism in the case of pollution control, there is no such compatibility in the case of the Endangered Species Act. An endangered plant that grows on a person's land is as much his property, so libertarians reason, as are the vegetables that flourish there. The landowner is free to eat the vegetables,
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and he or she should also be free to consume the endangered plant. The idea that the plant becomes a "public good" rather than a private one just because it is endangered strikes libertarians as robbery by "slight of terms". If society wants to protect the plant by prohibiting its sale, libertarians argue, it must compensate the landowner. Anything less is a plain and clear violation of the Fifth Amendment guarantee that private property shall not be taken for public use without just compensation. A major problem for libertarianism is how to maximize individual freedom without permitting society to degenerate into anarchy. Clearly, some restraints on individual choices are needed, but the libertarian distaste for restraints in general serves them poorly in deciding which restraints are appropriate. As we have seen, a prohibition against invasions would prevent pollution but not save biodiversity. Yet the interest that third parties, or the public at large, might have in clean air is no more obvious than their interest in biodiversity. The problem might be solved if libertarianism adopted some alternative rationale for constraints on individual prerogative, such as, the prevention of harm to others. However, as Ronald Coase (1960) argued convincingly, the concept of harm has a symmetry that renders it essentially useless for this purpose: pollution can harm the public, but prohibition of pollution would harm the polluter. Contractarianism seeks to provide a way to maximize individual freedoms while avoiding anarchy (see box 4-3). The utilitarian position seeks to evaluate consequences, but contractarians are more concerned with process: they are skeptical that people can agree on what is good, and they seek instead agreement on a good process for making public decisions. The basic contractarian principle is Pareto safety: no change that visits uncompensated harm on anyone should be permitted; equivalently, according to the assumption that people would not consent to changes that would harm them, change should occur only with unanimous consent. This contractarian ideal is implemented in the market, where exchange is voluntary, and would be put into use by public institutions that require unanimous consent, voluntary taxation, and so on. Because Pareto safety imposes strict criteria on proposed changes, it protects the status quo, whatever the status quo happens to be (note that the present status quo is not at all congenial to libertarians). As James Buchanan (1977) and others have shown, Pareto safety can be justified only if the status quo itself is justified. Contractarian proposals for justifying the starting point or original position include unanimous adoption of a starting constitution by real people who have real positions at risk (which would provide strong justification but seems insurmountably difficult in practice), and the Rawlsian constitution, which would be adopted behind an imaginary "veil of ignorance", where individuals who do not know their positions in society might be more inclined to come to agreement. A complete and coherent contractarian position requires a Rawls-Buchanan two-stage process: unanimous adoption of a just constitution followed by consensual change. The constitutional stage seems elusive in practice, and Rawls'
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BOX 4-3 Welfare Economics, Utilitarianism, and Contractarianism Welfare economics is the economics discipline's attempt to define the good life and to measure progress toward it. Individual good is defined as the satisfaction of individual preferences. The value measures are found through a process that identifies the minimal expenditure that will maintain the individual's baseline utility level. The procedure accurately reflects individual preferences, as intended, but also has the more controversial property that the preferences of the well-off count for more. Welfare economics speaks with a clear voice about individual good, but there are distinct utilitarian and contractarian variants for addressing social good. The utilitarian approach is manifested in the benefit-cost criterion and in indexes of standard of living and cost of living. Money metrics of individual utility (for example, willingness to pay and willingness to accept) are summed across individuals to calculate social-welfare levels and changes. This interpersonal rule by aggregation has the property that it could identify a welfare improvement in a change that visited great harm on a few in the service of small gains for many. The contractarian alternative finds it intolerable that individuals might be obliged to bear uncompensated harm in service of the public good. It emphasizes Pareto safety and consensual change: voluntary exchange of private goods and voluntary taxation for provision of public goods. Accordingly, contractarian welfare economics places great importance on property rights and compensation for individuals who would otherwise be made worse-off as the result of actions undertaken for the public good. "veil of ignorance" process is more nearly a thought experiment than a practical prescription. Without the constitutional stage, libertarian and contractarian proposals remain seriously flawed: libertarians remain unable to deal consistently with public goods and community values, and contractarians find themselves defending a legal and economic status quo that has not itself been justified. Kantian Ethics A tradition of ethical theory dating at least to the 18th-century writings of Immanuel Kant takes seriously the distinctions between instrumental needs, desires, tutored aesthetic taste, and matters of moral principle. Kant distinguished among three kinds of value: instrumental, subjective, and categorical. An object has instrumental value insofar as it is a means to a valued end. If you want your car to go, for example, you must fuel it. This kind of "if-then" statement, which Kant called the "hypothetical imperative", is testable and so universal and rational. Insofar as the statement "If you want your car to go, you must fuel it" is true,
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fuel has an "instrumental" although relative value (relative first to your desire to drive your car and ultimately relative to all the things you desire). An object or outcome has subjective value insofar as people happen to like or enjoy it—although, of course, inclinations differ. As they say, there is no arguing about taste. Kant believed that aesthetic judgments, as about beauty in nature or art, are subjective in the sense that they are not amenable to proof. Yet he also believed that these judgments make a claim to intersubjective agreement because they can be based on good reasons and shared experiences. In the case of ordinary pleasures, we value the object because we enjoy it. In the case of aesthetic pleasures, in contrast, we enjoy the object because we value it for reasons that we might expect others to grasp. Our feelings of pleasure (or pain) help us to perceive emotional and other qualities of the object; the feelings are the means by which we experience and appreciate qualities of the object and are not themselves (as pleasures) the ends we seek. For example, a bird-watcher enjoys perceiving new avian species because he or she values these rare and wonderful animals and their qualities. That is appreciation—the enjoyment of what one values. It leads one to try to point out the valuable qualities so that others might appreciate them. It is the opposite of hedonism, which leads us to value what we enjoy rather than to enjoy what we value. Because of the difference, Kant considered aesthetic judgment to go beyond the mere satisfaction of the senses and to engage the aesthetic qualities of nature—such as its beauty, complexity, and contingency—that science cannot capture. Finally, Kant asserted—and this is what distinguished him from utilitarian philosophy—that we can make rules that are appropriate to situations in view of our sense of who we are. By obeying these rules (Kant spoke of them as duties), we recognize the value of particular objects and outcomes as ends in themselves. Kant called the rules categorical imperatives. Like hypothetical imperatives, they are rational and objective, in the sense that they are public, apply to everyone, and are open to discussion, deliberation, and critical inquiry. Unlike hypothetical imperatives, however, categorical imperatives assert values that are not relative to other goals but are seen as principled responses appropriate to particular situations. To qualify as a categorical imperative, a statement must be expressed in universal terms: in situations of this kind, one should always respond in this way. The categorical imperative is not relative to any goal, such as, well-being, but is a principled response that follows from reflection on our identity as moral agents given a description of the situation to which we are to respond. Categorical imperatives are proposed as universal moral principles. Kant insisted that a moral statement was meaningless unless it could be stated universally. The essential Kantian task is to identify a set of universal moral principles that permit one to deduce from them the proper course of action in specific cases.
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Problems arise when a situation invokes moral principles that are themselves in conflict and no single proper course of action can be deduced. Faced with disagreement about the moral principles that should guide our actions, Kant did not theorize at length about situations where principles compete. It is fair to suppose that the proper course might be to undertake a process of public deliberation leading to the enactment of legislation within constitutional constraints. By legislating and following moral rules, we determine our moral character and identity as a nation. We are now in a position to understand the difference between utilitarian and Kantian theories of value. For utilitarians, society has no moral identity independent of the welfare of its members, who judge what benefits them. All values but welfare are instrumental or subjective. Ideally, everything but welfare itself can be assigned a value that indicates its relative worth with respect to promoting well-being. For Kantians, in contrast, value attaches to outcomes that reflect the rules or duties that we as a society accept as appropriate given our evolving identity and our understanding of the situation. Whereas utilitarians are comfortable with a scheme that values the practical and the aesthetic, and the public and the private, on the same scale, Kantians are at pains to confine relative valuation to the practical end of the continuum. Kant draws this distinction as follows: "That which is related to general human inclination and needs has a market price. But that which can be an end in itself does not have mere relative worth, that is, a price, but an intrinsic worth, that is, a dignity." Kantian ethics, however, have not resolved the problem of deciding what to do when "ends in themselves", that is, those things too important to trade off, conflict. Kantian ethics appeals directly to the concern that preferences alone are an insufficient guide right action. In the Kantian system, aesthetic judgment, intrinsic values, and moral principle can and should trump preferences in a considerable variety of circumstances. However, several problems arise in the Kantian system. It is not clear which things have "a good of their own" independent of contribution to human welfare. Egalitarianism and Environmental Justice John Rawls proposed the egalitarian criterion that inequality should be tolerated only insofar as it improves the well-being of the worst-off individual. The general problem with Rawlsian egalitarianism is that its exclusive focus on the worst-off might undermine incentives and freedom of action for everyone else. Implications of this kind of egalitarianism for environmental quality and biodiversity are unclear. If, as some suspect, environmental improvements have lower priority for the worst-off people than for the well-off, an egalitarian approach might lead to reduced provision of environmental public goods. Environmental justice focuses directly on environmental quality for the worst-off people. The basis concern is that public policy not worsen the situation
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of the already underprivileged by visiting a disproportionate amount of society's environmental waste on them. Rather than seeking broad-based welfare improvements for the poor, as Rawls would, the environmental-justice movement seeks to improve environmental quality for the poor and to make decision-making processes and forums more inclusive of all members of society. A problem arises potentially when environmentalists place a higher priority on environmental justice than do the poor themselves. Deep Ecology The basic approaches of Western philosophy call for concern for welfare (utilitarianism), respect for rights (contractarianism), and respect for things that have "a good of their own" (Kantianism). The basic program of deep ecology is to take any or all of the basic ethical approaches and expand the set of entities that matter—that is, entities whose welfare counts, that have rights, and that have a good of their own—independently of human beliefs. For example, Peter Singer argues that society—in recognizing the relevance of welfare for ethnic minorities, women, children, and sentient beings—is already descending a slippery slope that must lead ultimately to respect for the welfare of all animals, plants, and even rocks. Singer is a utilitarian, but the slippery-slope argument can also be applied in ethical frameworks based on rights or intrinsic values. The essential policy implications of deep ecology involve conscious and deliberate limitation of the impacts of human beings on the other entities that together make up the planet and life on it. Some would argue that Singer's slippery-slope argument is not entirely convincing. The hard work of legal craft and scholarship is directed to making the fine distinctions that protect society from slippery slopes, and history shows that society often has been able to stop or reverse itself. In application, deep ecology encounters two kinds of problems: the standard problems of the welfare, rights-based, and intrinsic-value approaches; and the special problems of grounding the expanded concern for nonhuman entities. What makes us think that humans are the only sentient species? And what about the welfare of nonsentient beings? Worthwhile exercise of rights would seem to require at least cognition, but some have argued that society could delegate to human specialists the responsibility of advocacy for noncognizant entities (for example, trees). Intrinsic value is something to be recognized by human beings; thus, broadening the category of things that have "a good of their own" requires that human beings see the light and so fails to provide a locus of value independent of human beliefs. Discursive Ethics We have made a distinction between ethical approaches that attempt directly to value the consequences of actions and theories that seek to define valid pro-
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cesses for deciding right action. Discursive ethics offers a process-oriented approach that is less formal than contractarianism or even the Kantian approach of public deliberation. Discursive ethics begins with the assumption that humans are social beings and ethical deliberation makes sense only in a social context. Individuals might sit in solitary contemplation of what is "just" and "good", but their definitions of those terms and the language in which they frame ethical questions result from social interaction. All moral principles will depend on human sociality, so discursive ethics assumes that the key challenge in resolving ethical conflicts is to ensure that our discussions are competent and fair. The sociologist Jurgen Habermas, who is the principal proponent of this approach, offers some principles for competent and fair moral discussion (Habermas 1991, 1993). The discursive approach to ethics does not prescribe specific ethical principles that a community must follow. It does not make universal claims about what is right in all contexts. Rather, the advocates of discursive ethics argue that a fair and competent discussion process must be used in arriving at moral norms that will guide individual choices. The moral rules developed by a community and the specific choices that the community makes will depend on circumstances. But the choices can be considered ethically appropriate if all those affected by decisions agree to the principles on which the choices will be based and if agreement comes as a result of open and informed discussion. Discursive ethics has several strengths. It assumes that appropriate action depends on context. It relies on a model of human decision-making that emphasizes human cognitive strengths rather than mental limitations (Dietz 1994; Dietz and Stern 1995). It emphasizes the ethical challenges that emerge when societies are faced with new problems that are not easy to analyze with existing moral principles. It assumes that our morality must evolve as we face new problems, and it offers a democratic process through which such evolution can take place. Discursive ethics also has some serious limitations. Two seem especially relevant to the problem of valuing our natural heritage. One is a conceptual problem. As Habermas (1993:105–11) has noted, only humans can participate in debates about morality, so the interests of nonhumans or of the biosphere itself are represented only to the extent that humans speak for them. The second problem is a practical one. Habermas offers an ideal system for settling moral disputes, but he offers no practical machinery for implementing his ideals. Although the utilitarian view of the world can be translated into policy analysis through the machinery of benefit-cost calculations, the tools of discursive ethics have not been as well developed. But over the last 2 decades, there have been a number of experiments in using discursive processes to inform environmental policy, and the results seem promising (Cramer and others 1980; Dietz 1994; Dietz and Pfund 1988; Renn and others 1993, 1995).
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Religious and Sacred Views Religious beliefs influence attitudes toward nature and biodiversity. Just as there are many concepts of religion and what is considered sacred, there are many religious views of nature. A recent ethnographic study of environmental values by anthropologists concluded that "it seems that divine creation is the closest concept American culture provides to express the sacredness of nature" (that is, Americans have a sense of nature that is linked to their ideas about the divine) (Kempton and others 1995). Survey research has also found links between religious beliefs and environmental concern (see, for example, Eckberg and Blocker 1996). But the links between religion and environmental concern take several different forms. Some find a religious basis for believing that there is order and balance in nature that deserves to be preserved; that can be extended to the idea that every species plays a role in the balance of nature. Some people's beliefs about nature derive from Genesis and its admonition that humans should make productive use of nature. Some of the writings of the transcendentalists and romantics grew out of the idea that people can find evidence in nature of a god as Creator. The considerable range of religious views of nature (and of most other topics) points toward the difficulties in characterizing all or part of them as a single philosophy of value. But, it makes sense to recognize the possible importance of religious underpinnings of attitudes toward nature. (The committee considered including a discussion of non-Western views here, but that is beyond its expertise and probably of little relevance to most potential users of this report.) Implications of Various Viewpoints for the Value of Biodiversity Many people naturally and intuitively distinguish instrumental and intrinsic values—assigning value to something because is serves a valued purpose and because it is valued for itself. Many people ascribe intrinsic value to some aspects of biodiversity. Although there is fairly broad agreement among philosophical traditions about what is meant by instrumental value, there is much less agreement about what is meant by intrinsic value and about how seriously to take the idea that something like biodiversity might have intrinsic value. If we accept for the moment that intrinsic value means what is ultimately valued, a utilitarian would ascribe intrinsic value to preference satisfaction and welfare; biodiversity would then have only instrumental value. A libertarian would ascribe intrinsic value to freedom, that is, the absence of coercion; again, biodiversity could have only instrumental value. A Kantian might (or might not) determine that respect for (some aspects of) the biota is a universal principle, thereby ascribing intrinsic value to it. A deep ecologist might well ascribe intrin-
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sic value to many aspects of the biota. Clearly, the major Western philosophical traditions disagree much more than they agree about ascribing intrinsic value to biodiversity. Ronald Dworkin (1994) argues that many claims couched in the language of rights are really claims of intrinsic value. In the controversies about abortion, for example, many people who talk of fetal rights do not mean that a fetus literally has rights that it can (or should be able to) enforce against its mother. Rather, they are claiming that the fetus has a value that should be taken seriously, even if it conflicts, say with the welfare of the mother. A similar claim could be made for some aspects of biodiversity. They are serious concerns—serious enough that people believe they should endure sacrifice up to some considerable level to preserve them. Things that have intrinsic value in this sense are important enough that they should not be sacrificed for trivial gain. Utilitarianism, and especially its welfare-economics version, would recommend that biodiversity be preserved and enhanced insofar as the benefits exceed the costs. Benefits would be broadly defined to include market values, economic surpluses, and willingness to pay or to accept nonmarket values, including existence values. (Existence values are values that are not predicated on use, in the ordinary sense of that word; that is, people gain utility from, or have preferences concerning, states of the world, in this case with respect to biodiversity). Biodiversity would be valued and promoted insofar as society desired it and were willing to pay for it. Some individuals, however, might turn out to bear costs greater than the benefits that they enjoy, without violating utilitarian precepts. Contractarianism would, in principle, promote biodiversity to the same extent as utilitarianism; that is, the basic concepts of value are identical—the buyer's best offer and the seller's reservation price (the lowest price at which the individual would sell voluntarily) under contractarianism and willingness to pay and to accept under the benefit-cost criterion). Nevertheless, contractarians would demand a special concern for protecting property rights, compensation of individuals harmed in service of the general public good, and incentive-compatible methods of financing the public-good aspects of biodiversity. In a world with nontrivial transaction costs, those requirements might pose impediments, in addition to those raised by ordinary costs, for biodiversity programs. Kantianism would recognize a hierarchy of concerns about biodiversity. Instrumental reasons for preserving biodiversity would be recognized but would be ranked lower than tutored aesthetic concerns (Kiester 1996); the intrinsic values of things that have ''a good of their own'' would rank highest of all. A Kantian approach takes seriously the possibility that people individually and as a society might believe that we ought to protect species as "ends in themselves" and thus apart from the welfare effect of such a commitment. In other words, we might preserve species because we believe that we ought to do so; and we would accept this responsibility, as a matter of collective responsibility not individual satisfaction. That is not, of course, to say that we must sacrifice all our wealth to
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protect every species. On the contrary, Kant was clear in distinguishing the obligatory from the supererogatory, that is, actions that are morally praiseworthy but go beyond the call of duty. Kantians would be comfortable using economic analysis to structure incentives so that we can get the most species protection at the lowest cost. Randall and Farmer (1995) have argued that utilitarianism, contractarianism, and Kantian ethics could accept, for different reasons, a safe minimum of conservation for species, habitats, and ecosystems. However, the different philosophical frameworks are likely to disagree about the subset of biodiversity that deserves such protection and about the conditions under which human society would be justified in abandoning the safe minimum because it demanded "too much" sacrifice. Egalitarianism would insist on special concern for the welfare of the worst-off human beings; this has unclear and not necessarily favorable implications for concern for biodiversity. The environmental-justice approach might well demand protection of biodiversity in impoverished places and for impoverished people but is likely to encounter opposition from those who believe that the impoverished have more pressing concerns. Deep ecology could take any of the basic utilitarian, contractarian, or Kantian ethical approaches and extend the category of things that matter (whose welfare is a concern, that have rights, or that have "a good of their own") to all or some of the elements of biodiversity. A major thrust would be to ground the claims of natural heritage independently of human value and belief so that humans would be obliged categorically (not just as it suited them individually) to honor these claims. Discursive ethics is really a process—and a relatively loosely defined process at that. Its promise lies in determining and expressing genuinely social values inherent in biodiversity as opposed to the aggregation of individual values that utilitarism would promote. Summary This chapter reviewed the main Western philosophies of value. This provides a context for the description in the next chapter of how the tools of economics contribute to understanding biodiversity values in relation to resource-management decisions. Understanding the implications of these various philosophies for valuing biodiversity is important for public-resources managers, who must deal with different value philosophies in their decisions. References Bentham J. 1986. An introduction to the principles of morals and legislation: special edition. Legal Classics Library.
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