Reviving Rationality: Saving Cost-Benefit Analysis for the Sake of the Environment and Our Health – Oxford Scholarship

For decades, administrations of both political parties have used cost-benefit analysis to evaluate and improve federal policy in a variety of areas, including health and the environment. Today, this model is under grave threat.

In Reviving Rationality, Michael Livermore and Richard Revesz explain how Donald Trump has destabilized the decades-long bipartisan consensus that federal agencies must base their decisions on evidence, expertise, and analysis. Administrative agencies are charged by law with protecting values like stable financial markets and clean air. Their decisions often have profound consequences, affecting everything from the safety of workplaces to access to the dream of home ownership. Under the Trump administration, agencies have been hampered in their ability to advance these missions by the conflicting ideological whims of a changing cast of political appointees and overwhelming pressure from well-connected interest groups. Inconvenient evidence has been ignored, experts have been sidelined, and analysis has been used to obscure facts, rather than inform the public. The results are grim: incoherent policy, social division, defeats in court, a demoralized federal workforce, and a loss of faith in government’s ability to respond to pressing problems.

This experiment in abandoning the norms of good governance has been a disaster. Reviving Rationality explains how and why our government has abandoned rationality in recent years, and why it is so important for future administrations to restore rigorous cost-benefit analysis if we are to return to a policymaking approach that effectively tackles the most pressing problems of our era.

Abstract

Reviving Rationality: Saving Cost-Benefit Analysis for the Sake of the Environment and Our Health explains how Donald Trump destabilized the decades-long bipartisan consensus that federal agencies must base their decisions on evidence, expertise, and analysis. Administrative agencies are charged by law with protecting values like stable financial markets and clean air. Their decisions often have profound consequences, affecting everything from the safety of workplaces to access to the dream of home ownership. Under the Trump administration, agencies have been hampered in their ability to advance these missions by the conflicting ideological whims of a changing cast of political appointees and overwhelming pressure from well-connected interest groups. Inconvenient evidence has been ignored, experts have been sidelined, and analysis has been used to obscure facts rather than inform the public. The results are grim: incoherent policy, social division, defeats in court, a demoralized federal workforce, and a loss of faith in government’s ability to respond to pressing problems. This experiment in abandoning the norms of good governance has been a disaster. Reviving Rationality explains how and why our government has abandoned rationality in recent years, and why it is so important for future administrations to restore rigorous and even-handed cost-benefit analysis if we are to return to a policymaking approach that effectively tackles the most pressing problems of our era.

Reviving Rationality painstakingly documents the Trump EPA’s playbook to shift the agency’s priorities away from sound science and public health protections, toward fossil fuel polluters and other special interests. Livermore and Revesz detail the deep ramifications it has had for the agency’s ability to build cleaner American cars, protect children’s brains from the damages of mercury pollution, tackle the growing threats of climate change, and so much more. They also provide a path forward for restoring EPA and reestablishing the rule of law to protect our health, our communities, and our children’s future.” — Gina McCarthy, President and Executive Officer of the National Resources Defense Council and former Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency under Barack Obama

“A spectacular achievement, and the best imaginable foundation for thinking about the modern regulatory state. In an era focused on pandemics, climate change, inequality, and public health, Livermore and Revesz show that using the best available science, and the best available economics, offers the best path forward and will help the least advantaged among us.” — Cass R. Sunstein, Robert Walmsley University Professor, Harvard Law School, and former Administrator, White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs under Barack Obama
“This well-reasoned book is refreshing therapy for those of us who are sick of the ideological wars in America’s regulatory politics. The authors call for resumption of the legitimate roles of expertise and analysis in public administration.” — John D. Graham, Professor, Paul H. O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs, Indiana University, and former Administrator, White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs under George W. Bush
“This book is another thoughtful and thought-provoking contribution by the authors to our understanding of critical aspects of the regulatory process. The issues discussed and perspectives provided will be particularly important to our country in the years ahead. It is a must read for those involved in the process as well as those who want a clear explanation for how we can and should evaluate government policy.” — Sally Katzen, Professor of Practice and Distinguished Scholar in Residence, New York University School of Law, and former Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs under Bill Clinton

Michael A. Livermore, Edward F. Howrey Professor of Law at the University of Virginia, Richard L. Revesz, Lawrence King Professor of Law and dean emeritus, NYU School of Law

Livermore and Revesz are the authors of Retaking Rationality: How Cost-Benefit Analysis Can Better Protect the Environment and Our Health (Oxford) and the editors of The Globalization of Cost-Benefit Analysis in Environmental Policy (Oxford). Together, they founded the Institute for Policy Integrity at NYU School of Law, which Revesz now directs.Publisher : Oxford University Press; 1st edition (November 11, 2020)

  • Language : English
  • Hardcover : 304 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 0197539440
  • ISBN-13 : 978-0197539446
  • Item Weight : 1.24 pounds
  • Dimensions : 9.3 x 1 x 6.4 inches

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