Risk assessment is now a common feature of regulatory practice, but fear assessment is not. In particular, environmental, health and safety agencies such as EPA, FDA, OSHA, NHTSA, and CPSC, commonly count death, illness, and injury as costs for purposes of cost-benefit analysis, but almost never incorporate fear, anxiety, or other welfare-reducing mental states into the analysis. This is puzzling, since fear and anxiety are welfare setbacks, and since the very hazards regulated by these agencies-air or water pollutants, toxic waste dumps, food additives and contaminants, workplace toxins and safety threats, automobiles, dangerous consumer products, radiation, and so on-are often the focus of popular fears. Even more puzzling is the virtual absence of economics scholarship on the pricing of fear and anxiety, by contrast with the vast literature in environmental economics on pricing other intangible benefits such as the existence of species, wilderness preservation, the enjoyment of hunters and fishermen, and good visibility, and the large literature in health economics on pricing health states.
This Article makes the case for fear assessment, and explains in detail how fear and anxiety should be quantified and monetized as part of a formal, regulatory cost-benefit analysis. The author proposes, concretely, that the methodology currently used to quantify and monetize light physical morbidities, such as headaches, coughs, sneezes, nausea, or shortness of breath, should be extended to fear. The change in total fear-days resulting from regulatory intervention to remove or mitigate some hazard-like the change in total headache-days, cough-days, etc.-should be predicted and then monetized at a standard dollar cost per fear-day determined using contingent-valuation interviews.
Matthew D. Adler,
Fear Assessment: Cost-Benefit Analysis and the Pricing of Fear and Anxiety,
Chi.-Kent L. Rev.
Available at: https://scholarship.kentlaw.iit.edu/cklawreview/vol79/iss3/26