Economists and values

Another great comic from SMBC:

To (as usual) kill the fun a bit, I would note that the Economist is explicitly placing value on life in order to understand trade-offs.  The “normal person” is still placing an implicit value on life when they discuss the policy – they just don’t want to say it.  This implies that the “normal person” is hiding the trade-off, making any policy recommendation they make less transparent.

11 replies
  1. Eric Crampton
    Eric Crampton says:

    Oh come on. The error bars are wider than that! Just look at the differences in VSL measures arising from employment and housing studies! I’d be surprised if the 95% CI were narrower than $1 million.

  2. Tony Accardo
    Tony Accardo says:

    Hehe! This is really pun-ny! Love this kinda humor. Keep posting. The error bar could be as wide as Bill Gates’ worth, or all the property on the Earth 😛

  3. steve
    steve says:

    If you’re interested ediwm discussed the same cartoon and linked to a study with the value of a human life

    The value of an average life in the US is 1.54 million. Its based on how much people increase their speed of driving compared to time saved due to speeding, average wage and the increase in risk of losing one’s life.

  4. Matt Nolan
    Matt Nolan says:


    Surely that only provides an upper limit on the value of a life, as an individual is likely to be subject to the endowment effect with their own lives 😉

    We need to ask a person BEFORE they are alive how much they would be willing to trade to not live 😛

  5. rainer
    rainer says:

    like this one… just like my teacher always said :

    “when everyone said something same. just see their background, and you will know what they actually want to says.”


  6. Locksmiths
    Locksmiths says:

    Yep, I’m definitely a “normal person” and I’m guilty of sometimes hiding the trade-offs. Now that you mention it, that does make my agenda and my recommendations less transparent.
    Hmmm, something else to think about.

  7. Jeremy
    Jeremy says:

    Amusing comic. It may make the economist look cold, but he is just being a realist as his profession trained him to be.

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