Books et al.Economics

Discounting lives

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Science  12 Jun 2020:
Vol. 368, Issue 6496, pp. 1196
DOI: 10.1126/science.abc0164

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Summary

In the United States, the lives of people of color and those of the poor, the elderly, the disabled, and the incarcerated are heavily discounted in the economic sense, a phenomenon documented in Howard Steven Friedman's Ultimate Price. Written for a lay audience, Friedman's book explains how the U.S. government and corporations assign dollar values to human lives. Michelle Murphy, like Friedman, is intensely interested in how experts have assigned value to human populations. But where Friedman treats economics as a solid basis for rational decision-making, if done right, in her book, The Economization of Life, Murphy explores how the concepts of "economy" and "population" gained their appeal.

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