How (Not) to Lie with Benefit-Cost Analysis

and Scott Farrow
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  • Scott Farrow is the former Chief Economist of the U.S. GAO, editor of the Journal of Benefit-Cost Analysis and Professor of Economics at UMBC, a part of the University System of Maryland.
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Benefit-cost analysis is the applied side of welfare economics. Its broad use in support of public decisions draws both detractors and defenders. This tongue-in-cheek piece demonstrates that knowing how to lie provides insights into how not to lie; we assume the former is always accidental among economists and we hope it is so for others.

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  • Boardman, Anthony, David Greenberg, Aiden Vining, and David Weimer. 2011. Cost-Benefit Analysis: Concepts and Practice. Upper Saddle River: Pearson-Prentice Hall.

  • Farrow, Scott, Ed. The Journal of Benefit-Cost Analysis. Available at

  • Farrow, Scott and Richard Zerbe, eds. 2013. Principles and Standards for Benefit-Cost Analysis. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar.

  • Harrington, Winston, Lisa Heinzerling and Richard Morgenstern, eds. 2009. Reforming Regulatory Impact Analysis. Washington, D.C.: Resources for the Future.

  • Office of Management and Budget, Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, 2013. Annual Report to Congress on the Benefits and Costs of Federal Regulations and Unfunded Mandates on State, Local and Tribal Entities.

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