Ethical Aspects–Can We Value Life, Health, and Environment in Money Terms?

Jose M. Grisolia, Ken Willis

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedingBook Chapterpeer-review


Measuring time, life, and environment in monetary terms is the normal practice in transport project appraisal. But there is a widespread believe that these measurements are unethical. This can be observed in questionnaires where people reject the idea of monetary measurement, in particular for environment and life. Cost-benefit analysis is based on neoclassical economics, which is grounded on utilitarianism, a doctrine that considers that the right course of action should be elicited by weighting up the consequences. In contrast, deontological ethics advocates rules to be followed regardless of the consequences. Economic or exchange value is attached to the former; whereas intrinsic or absolute value applies to the later. Economic value considers the impact on utility, that is, benefits or costs; whereas intrinsic value is unrelated to human benefits. In this context we argue that a rule-based ethics will lead to no action since all options would have the same relative value. In a scarce resource context a choice is needed, and hence a rule-based value cannot be considered a morally superior approach. In addition, human behavior is consistent with utilitarianism since individuals are continually, even unconsciously, making trade-offs between public and private goods.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInternational Encyclopedia of Transportation
Subtitle of host publicationVolume 1-7
Number of pages5
ISBN (Electronic)9780081026724
ISBN (Print)9780081026717
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2021


  • Altruism
  • Deontological ethics
  • Economic value
  • Intrinsic value
  • Non-market goods
  • Revealed preferences
  • Stated preferences
  • Utilitarianism
  • Value of statistical life (VSL)
  • Value of time (VT)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (all)


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