The Importance of Ethics in Environmental Economics with a Focus on Existence Values

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Abstract

The importance of ethics and fundamental value judgments in environmental economics is high-lighted by discussing the controversial concept of existence values. The social value depends crucially on the social objective, which is not necessarily self-evident, e.g., since some individuals tend to value nature intrinsically. It is shown that the motives behind willingness to pay figures matter for the social value, and the conventional view that people respond to CV questions solely in order to maximize their own utility or well-being is questioned. The importance of being explicit about value judgments is emphasized, and it is argued that environmental economics should consider non-conventional assumptions which take the social context into account to a larger degree.

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