The Ethics of Environmental Economics

How are ethical issues treated in environmental economics textbooks? Is it possible to recognize some trends in the treatment of ethical issues from the older to the most recent textbooks?

These are the questions to which Ralf Eriksson offers an answer in his article On the Ethics of Environmental Economics as Seen from Textbooks in Ecological Economics, March 2005, v. 52, iss. 4, pp. 421-35. He examines the most widely used textbooks in environmental economics, that is, Baumol and Oates (1979) , Callan and Thomas (2000), Field and Field (2002), Goodstein (1999), Kahn (1998), Perman, Ma, McGilvray and Common, (1999), Tietenberg (1996), and Pearce and Turner (1990).

Eriksson (2005, 434) finds great differences in the quality of the presentation of what is considered by the textbook authors the ethical basis of environmental economics. Some authors give a consistent, systematic, explicit picture of such basis while others offer a somewhat inconsistent miscellaneous collection of ideas. As for the trends in the treatment of ethics in environmental economics textbooks, the restricted number of older textbooks makes it virtually impossible to draw strong conclusions.

I have complemented Kahn (2005) with chapter 2 of Perman, Ma, McGilvray and Common (1999). As a brief introduction on the relationship between economics and ethics, I found useful the entry Economics and ethics by Charles K. Wilber for the Elgar Handbook to Economic Methodology.

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