Issues for Discussion


The following are the issues that have been suggested for discussion by the class (including me). That is, these are project or policies on which decisions might potentially be informed by benefit-cost analysis. We will discuss in class whethe r benefit-cost studies of these issues are possible and/or appropriate, and how one might go about measuring the benefits and costs involved.


  1. Animal Testing: Conducting animal testing for medical research (perhaps quite philosophical but I think it's controversial and interesting). [Kitty]
  2. Ban Magazine Inserts: There are a lot of "handbills" that come in with magazines and the publisher has to use some kind of machine to slip these in. The publisher has to bear the cost and in return they can charge those companies using the se rvice. However, it is a nuisance to the readers and can be a waste of paper. In fact, how much value can these companies achieve by inserting these advertisements in the magazines? [Kitty]
  3. Banning Peanut Butter: Peanut butter, especially in peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, is a very popular food for children in the U.S., since it is both nutritious and eagerly eaten by most kids. But there has been a growing (but still very rare) incidence of allergy to peanut butter that has caused a few children to die from eating it. Some schools now are prohibiting all student from bringing peanut butter into their buildings or grounds. Should they? [Alan]
  4. Broadcasting the Presidentís Testimony: (maybe I'm too overwhelmed (or fed-up) by this event ...) [Kitty]
  5. Death Penalty: Death penalty cases in the U.S. have been found to cost much more than cases without the possibility of the death penalty. Should the death penalty be abolished on benefit-cost grounds? [Alice]
  6. Government Sale of Public Housing: In Hong Kong, the residents live in housing units which can be broadly divided into a) the public housing units built by the government to be rented to the needy, b) government subsidized housing to be sold t o citizens at prices lower than the market (called Home Ownership Scheme); and c) housing units privately built by developers for sale in the private market. Recently the Government implemented a scheme which allows for the sale of the public rental hou sing to the existing tenants. This will in effect increase the percentage of home owners in Hong Kong, but will also affect the sale of flats under the Home Ownership Scheme, as well as in the private market. [Peony]
  7. Invention of Computers: The invention of the computer was supposed to have reduced the use of paper (achieving ultimately a paperless society). However, for all these years, I guess more paper has been used. Because we care about the look of the printouts and sometimes the printer just don't listen to you, you end up printing more. Even with recycling service, there is a cost to recycle and there is a limit for recycling. There could be other kinds of externalities created by recycling (you need to transport them from the collection sites around the cities to the plant etc.) [Kitty]
  8. Railway Projects: I understand that many of the railway projects are not profitable and thus need to be funded by the govt. It may mean that most of the benefits derived from railway projects are external benefits, e.g. development of remote a reas, that can only be materialized after a long period of time. So the govt would probably need to do a cost-benefit analysis to see if it is beneficial to the society to build a railway which will probably lose money. [Belinda]
  9. Relief for the Unemployed: - Would it reduce the incentive for these people to find a job and choose to rely on the government for the rest of their lives? (In fact, we can do benefit-cost analysis on virtually all kinds of social benefits pol icies.) [Kitty]
  10. Removing Trams: Removing the 90-year old trams from the roads on Hong Kong Island (there are no tramways on the Kowloon Peninsula) (Background : Trams are the cheapest mode of transport on road in HK and probably the oldest. Powered by elect ricity, it runs on rails. Their capacity is less than a bus (around 60 ? We can ask Mandy Wong Man, It was one of her subject when she was in the Transport Bureau). People say that trams are slow, not efficient, too old, and should be replaced. Others sa y that they provide the cheapest means of transport and as tourist attractions should be preserved.) [Kitty]
  11. Require Re-Use of Paper: Requiring private sector (we can first restrict to large corporations, then small and medium enterprises, or even expand the scope to everyone except private persons) to reuse all the envelopes and letter paper for all mail (i.e. flip over the envelope for reuse and use both sides). This idea popped up voluntarily among some of the corporations which were "green" but it didn't last long because they think that using reused paper affects their corporate image. [Kitty]

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