Philosophy 524, Fall 2006

Term Paper Assignment

During the last half of October and the beginning of November, we will be examining the philosophical foundations of cost-benefit analysis and addressing a variety of criticisms that can be directed toward cost-benefit analysis.  Your task in the term paper is to locate a cost-benefit analysis of some specific project that is of interest to you and then to evaluate it.  Your evaluation can take many forms. It might be critical of the conclusions that are drawn, or it might defend them.  Its focus should be to some extent normative.  Though you may want to discuss the factual assumptions upon which the analysis is built, the paper should not be entirely addressed to matters of fact.  It should raise questions about the moral assumptions that are implicit in the cost-benefit analysis and concerning whether the cost-benefit analysis succeeds in justifying any policy conclusions.

To find a cost-benefit analysis that might be of interest to you, you can start by searching on the web for "congressional budget office cost benefit analysis" which will turn up some analyses like the one we will be discussing concerning fuel economy standards.  You can also search on the web for "_____ and cost benefit analysis" where you fill in the blank with some policy issue of interest to you.  For example, I searched for "housing and cost benefit analysis," "space exploration and cost benefit analysis," and "endangered species and cost benefit analysis" and in each case found examples of cost benefit analyses, which might be discussed.

The term paper counts for 40% of your semester grade. It should be no more than 2500 words and the first draft is due at the beginning of class on Monday, November 13. The term paper is due early in the semester in order to make it possible for you to rewrite it and to submit a revised version. The revised version will be due on Friday, December 8. If you submit a revised version, your grade will be the average of your grades on the two versions.

Be sure to consult the syllabus for guidance in writing the term paper. Please feel free to discuss your choice of topic with me. Please email me no laater than November 6 with the URL (web address) of the cost-benefit analysis you plan to discuss.

When you hand in your paper, please hand in a print-out of the cost-benefit analysis that you are discussing.