Governance: Biases and Blind Spots
Informational and governance challenges make ecological sustainability a daunting enough goal at the national level. The chapter details why current environmental regulations and policies look the way they do. Policy makers have tried being objective. They have tried to be fair by stripping policy decisions of all ethical consequence and significance. Guided by the so-called comprehensive rationality of cost-benefit analysis, they have attempted being and doing all these things. At the core, cost-benefit analyses are guided by what is known as welfare economics. The Pareto optimality standard is a core economic principle driving, and justifying, cost-benefit analyses and welfare economics more generally. Welfare-economic policy analysis also has a distinct way of looking at the future. Welfare-economic policy analyses have a very narrow understanding of "sustainability." According to proponents of this approach, it is necessary to ensure that current generations maximize their investment opportunities in the hope that benefits will trickle "forward" to later generations.