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  • The Saunterer. That's me, H. Charles Romesburg, Professor in the Department of Environment and Society, Utah State University. As part of my research I saunter through the writings of especially creative people, keeping an eye open for insightful ideas on subjects that are joined with great goodness and creativity. I will in this blog present ideas from the writings of more than three hundred of these creators: painters, scientists, mathematicians, entrepreneurs, writers, poets, naturalists, actors, rock climbers and more. Among the subjects that will be covered: How workers in most every vocation and avocation can work as artists do, creating use, beauty, or both, of rare note. How regularly experiencing wild nature makes us better creators. How it is that the more all forms of life come to be revered, the more creative society will be. For some of the other subjects that will be covered, click on cnr.usu.edu/romesburg

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April 10, 2006


Thank you for addressing this subject! I appreciate the opportunity to write a few comments.

Contingent valuation has many weaknesses, but when it is carefully applied the results can provide decision makers with a useful benchmark. Good economists know that any complete survey of costs and benefits must include the value of market goods and services, non-market goods and services whose market value can be estimated, and non-market goods and services whose market value cannot be approximated. To address the final category the economist must be willing to transcend the limits of his or her own discipline. Unfortunately, too many resist doing so.

WTP fails oftentimes not because the tool is of no value but because those who wield the tool do so carelessly, partially because they have too much faith in its power. A kitchen knife is useful, but one would not attempt eye surgery with the instrument even if trained to do eye surgery.

Inappropriate faith in WTP is one more manifestation of society's desire to limit the scope of the solutions that can be applied to any problem, and, in fact, to limit the range of problems that are discerned in the first place.

Too many have embraced a culture defined by consumption, immediate gratification, and selfishness. This culture gives its adherents a dangerous form of tunnel vision. Adherents may become incredibly skilled at dealing with SOME problems, and they may be incredibly skilled at dispensing SOME solutions. Their hubris often expands until they believe that their skills are more comprehensive than they really are. They err greatly when they fail to recognize that the world is wider than they know.

How can we broaden our vision of the problems we face and of solutions we could apply? The process has to begin with humility, a quality that includes understanding that there will always be more to learn. Having a conversation with great minds, either through exposure to literature or through personal interaction, is a necessary component.

Educational programs that do not teach humility have their place, but their focus is always constrained and may even be constraining unless accompanied by education that fosters deep humility.

Let the economists continue to use WTP, but let's help them remember that its only a beginning to complete understanding.

p.s. I am one of those economists!

The comments to this entry are closed.

Books by H. Charles Romesburg

  • H. Charles Romesburg: The Life of the Creative Spirit

    H. Charles Romesburg: The Life of the Creative Spirit
    Practically all of the quotations in this blog's posts are collected in "The Life of the Creative Spirit."

  • H. Charles Romesburg: How About It, Writer?

    H. Charles Romesburg: How About It, Writer?
    Based on a study of more than 12,000 essays from the very best literary magazines, this book provides writers with lists of thousands of classic forms of opening sentences, titles, transition sentences, ways of saying "for example," and ways of closing nonfiction pieces. When you are writing an essay and want a hint for a better or fresh way of saying what you mean, looking through the lists acts on the imagination, stimulating your creativity. From Lulu Press (ISBN 1-4116-2862-4, 194 pp., softback), it's $16.95 when ordered from Lulu.com/Romesburg , and $22.95 from bookstores. To view its cover, click on www.cnr.usu.edu/romesburg/how_about_it_writer.htm To view its title page, contents, and first two chapters, click on: www.cnr.usu.edu/romesburg/how_about_it_writer_preview.pdf

  • H Charles Romesburg: Best Research Practices

    H Charles Romesburg: Best Research Practices
    The Saunterer’s new book (2009), Best Research Practices explains how to plan and carry out reliable experiments, how to conceive and circumstantially support research hypotheses, how to test research hypotheses with the hypothetico-deductive method, how to discover cause and effect, and more. It’s based on his examination of 5,000 top scientific articles, studying the methods used to produce reliable knowledge. Preview it on-line by going to the following link: http://print.google.com/print?isbn=9780557017836

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