PRICELESS: On Knowing the Price of Everything and the Value of Nothing, by Frank Ackerman and Lisa Heinzerling,
The New Press, 270 pp., $25.95
reviewed by Osha Gray Davidson in OnEarth from the Natural Resources Defense Council, Spring 2004
A doctor, an architect, and an economist were sitting in a bar arguing over who had the most important profession. "Clearly, it's surgery," claimed the doctor. "After all, God created Eve by removing one of Adam's ribs." The architect disagreed, saying that her job was by far the most important. "Way before Adam and Eve, God built the heavens and the earth out of chaos," she insisted.
The economist leaned back in his chair, smiled, and said quietly, "And who do you think created the chaos?" The joke, of course, is that economists claim to bring order to a chaotic world. But the humor seems more apt than amusing these days, with the Bush administration shredding decades of environmental laws, often justifying its actions with an economic strategy -- cost-benefit analysis -- that seems perfectly reasonable but is in truth fundamentally flawed.