In 1972 the national highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) put a price on life - $200 725 (adjusted for inflation). The Ford Motor Company used this data along with other statistical studies to determine the cost benefit of improving the safety of the Ford Pinto compared to the cost of loss of life. It was determined that the cost of the suggested improvements outweighed their benefits. This essay aims to address whether cost-benefit analysis is a legitimate tool and what role, if any, it should play in moral deliberation, especially when placing a monetary value on a human life. It also questions what responsibilities Ford had to its customers and what moral rights were in operation, as well as whether it would have made a difference if Ford customers knew about the decision. Discussion
Cost-Benefit Analysis, is a systematic process for calculating and comparing benefits and costs of a project for two purposes; firstly to determine if it is a sound investment (justification/feasibility and secondly, to see how it compares with alternate projects (ranking/priority assignment). It works by first defining the project and any alternatives; then identifying, measuring, and valuing the benefits and costs of each.(Benefit-cost analysis, 2007) The variables employed in Fords cost-benefit analysis were; the cost of making the safety changes to millions of vehicles, the statistics quoting quantity of deaths, injuries and vehicle damage , and lastly and most controversially, the total per fatality quoted by the NHTSA, being $200,275. The latter value is what is being questioned. What is the cost of a life? Can one even put a cost on a life? The Ford motor company factored the cost of life into the decision that safety improvements outweighed their benefits. Based on the above definition, however, cost benefit analysis was a legitimate tool, but for financial decisions only. If Ford had taken a utilitarian approach to the cost benefit...
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