Wednesday, March 23, 2011

How to Strain Ethical Credibility

Occasional contributor and reader Joshua Kurdys has a post up on the value of developing natural gas drilling in rural Pennsylvania. In these so-called times of austerity, it might seem advantageous to consider "positive tax implications" in poorer rural areas over environmental and human health impacts. Joshua writes (the bold is my emphasis):
The problem is that these values do not have clear market prices and can't be easily or consistently quantified in cost calculations. The individuals and communities that accept drilling in exchange for quick cash infusions often need the money since drilling often takes place in poor, rural areas but this need does not necessarily reflect the fair market value of what is sold and that means granting the assumption that fair market value could conceivably be determined. Where fair market value is difficult to determine and this uncertainty is either overlooked or ignored by claims of economic development from drilling the situation strains ethical credibility. In those situations, trumpeting the value of economic development from drilling would be analogous to someone purchasing kidneys from the poor and then patting themselves on the back for their contributions to the homeless. Where the fair market value of the object in question is indeterminable, whether it involves determining the value of a kidney or the environment in prime drilling areas, it is impossible to draw conclusions from economic data alone.

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