Séminaire GREDEG - Harro Maas (University of Lausanne)

"Fraught with Controversy: Organizing Expertise on Contingent Valuation"

30-06-2016 Salle Picasso
Publication : 30-06-2016
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Harro Maas

(University of Lausanne)


Jeudi 30 juin 2016 


Résumé : This paper examines consulting and expert work performed by (experimental) economists for the Exxon Valdez litigation case. One of the issues at stake was the use of a specific method, contingent valuation, to estimate the so-called passive use value part of the damage resulting from the Exxon Valdez oil spill in the night of March 24, 1989. Our interest is not so much in the possibilities to use contingent valuation to estimate passive use values as such, but in the dynamics of consulting and expert work itself, which in litigation cases mostly remains hidden behind the veil of contracts. Because Exxon went explicitly public in the Exxon Valdez case, this veil can be partially lifted. In contrast with Public Trustees, who submitted a monetary damage estimate to the Court, Exxon decided to follow a radically different strategy: it organized an all-out assault on the method by which such a monetary estimate most likely was going to be produced. That strategy cut across social and epistemic commitments of different segments of the economics discipline, raising questions about the different meanings of expertise, and the role of economists in the legal, business, and public domain. This paper aims to address these questions.



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