Cost-benefit analysis, environmental assessment, and politics

Engineers, especially civil and mineral and environmental engineers like myself, have to keep this important principle in mind in doing our work of designing and building the stuff we need for life, liberty, and prosperity. NOT the government excuse for cost-benefit analysis. (Which rivals or exceeds military music and military intelligence for supreme examples of non-sequitur ideas.)

Supposedly, all major government programs (who defines major?) are to have both environmental assessments AND cost-benefit analysis done before the programs can be approved – and implemented. Why? To protect the environment – ensure or restore environmental quality. And to protect the taxpayer: to prevent fraud and abuse and all the other results of government corruption when it comes to money.

Of course, like most government actions, this is half-gibberish and half-fraud. The way in which both these assessments are done is subject to manipulation and intended to let the proponents of politically-supported projects do whatever they want, while projects and work which are not “in” with the political powers-that-be and their campaign contributors and beneficiaries never happen.

Whether it is some hidden powers-that-be that call the shots, activists or demagogues that push “the will of the people,” they play games with the definitions of “environmental quality” and “cost effectiveness.” The result? Lip service to protecting anything (except their own power). And much of their power is based on the votes generated by various Woke activists and wealthy “benefactors” who seek to give more power to governments – regardless of cost to the environment or the taxpayer.

Both the processes (flawed though they be) and the results are viewed as being “good.” Useful and important. Even by conservatives and even some who claim to be libertarians. After all, they are saving money right? And protecting the environment, no?

But they are based on flawed assumptions. The major one being that mandatory, human government, should have any control whatsoever over the matters being decided. None of these things are about truly protecting people from threats – at best they are pretending to protect people (and the environment). Another major one is that the processes themselves are free of political influences and are based on “hard facts” – dollars and cents and scientific analysis of environmental factors.

Even though there appear to be very-clearly-stated procedures and standards, in reality, the process is slanted. It can be and is manipulated to support pre-existing decisions. The procedures and the standards are twisted, worked around and not implemented in an honest way. Usually, political pressures and “realities” have decided in advance what is going to be done. Or just as important, what is NOT be be allowed. So the analyses and studies: the environmental assessments and environmental impact studies, the cost-benefit analyses, the preliminary economic and engineering assessments, are written to confirm and support the way “it is going to be.” Like it or not. There is no honest analysis.

Which is, of course, the way human, mandatory government works. It is no more the fair, honest, and impartial decision-making process it is claimed to be NOR the will of the people. It is not just the inherent weaknesses of democracy that make this so. It is the corruption that exists naturally in coercive government and its institutions.

What is the solution? Ultimately, reducing the power of the government, both to spend money and to approve (deny) projects of private entities – especially those projects where the State (or municipality or whatever) gives one entity the power to analyze and decide: generally unelected bureaucrats and powermongers.

About TPOL Nathan

Follower of Christ Jesus (a christian), Pahasapan (resident of the Black Hills), Westerner, Lover of Liberty, Free-Market Anarchist, Engineer, Army Officer, Husband, Father, Historian, Writer, Evangelist. Successor to Lady Susan (Mama Liberty) at TPOL.
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1 Response to Cost-benefit analysis, environmental assessment, and politics

  1. Steve says:

    For a long time, they just wildly overestimated the benefits of their proposals, and when it turned out their measures didn’t save a trillion human lives, it was just “Oops” and off to the races on a new program.

    Now they’ve pulled a real sneaky — they are setting the discount rate to 1.7%, from an already absurdly low 3%. Used to be the project had to break even in 23 years, now not for 41. Which is crazy. How many freeways last 41 years before major reconstruction? Solar cells? Wind turbines?

    Rat bastards, one and all.


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