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Environmental Economics: The Meaning of an 'Objective' Policy Science

Marian K. Deblonde

Environmental Values 9(2000): 235-248. doi: 10.3197/096327100129342056

Environmental economics is a policy science. Environmental economists, however, find that their policy recommendations are often neglected by political officials. Some of them react to this neglect by reproaching public authorities with lack of efficiency: this so-called inefficiency is considered to be a manifestation of government failure. Others propose a redefinition of environmental economics in order to make it fit better with actual political objectives. After briefly outlining the case for an economic paradigm that differs from conventional (i.e. neo-classical welfare) environmental economics, I argue that an alternative paradigm demands a different interpretation of economic 'objectivity'. I claim that economic 'objectivity' ultimately comes down to a non-neutral common consent within a particular community of economic scientists. This interpretation leaves room for a multiplicity of 'objective', but non-neutral economic theories. The fact that the inevitable value ideas underlying a particular theory cannot be made fully transparent, urges us to accept a different conception of the theory's political relevance. Environmental economic theory should be considered not so much a provider of political 'instruments', as of scientific 'insights'. It should not simply be considered a theory that responds to actual political objectives, but one that inspires political objectives. These two latter suggestions of mine are only preliminary recommendations, which require further conceptual analysis.


KEYWORDS: Bromley, neutrality, objectivity, Pearce

CITATIONS in other Environmental Values articles:

Natura economica in Environmental ValuationKatrine Soma


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