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Invited Commentary


The precautionary principle may be best justified on the principle of expected net-welfare/benefit maximization; there is no conflict between the two principles. We should want to be more cautious for cases with high benefit-to-cost ratios; there should thus be different degrees of precaution. For measures to reduce extinction-threatening environmental disruption or to reduce animal suffering that cost us little or nothing, we should adopt them even for species having only a small likelihood of being sentient, i.e., we should be more cautious. This argument is based on welfarism, which I strongly defend elsewhere (Ng 1990 & forthcoming).

Author Biography

Yew-Kwang Ng is Winsemius professor in economics at Nanyang Technological University. He is a fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia and Distinguished Fellow of the Economic Society of Australia. He has published over two hundred refereed papers in economics, biology, cosmology, mathematics, philosophy, psychology, and sociology. His recent books include: Common Mistakes in Economics by the Public, Students, Economists and Nobel Laureates (open access). www.ntu.edu.sg/home/ykng/