Weighing Human Costs Critical


<>Letter to National Business Review, 11 September, 2009

<> <>Keywords: Health;

<> <>Dear Editor,

<> <>In his profile of me (4 September 2009), John Bishop compares my estimate of the cost of alcohol misuse ($16.1b) with that of the BERL estimate ($5.3b). Aside that they are for different years, and in different prices, they are not comparable because the BERL figure covers only tangible losses (that is lost of effective production) whereas mine also includes intangible losses, that is the shortening of life and the reduction of the quality of the life of the living as a result of alcohol misuse.

<> <>Because of the widespread morbidity and mortality that alcohol misuse generates, and because we greatly value human life, the loss of the intangibles are far greater than the loss of the tangibles. Hence the substantive difference between my and the BERL estimate.

<> <>It would be foolish to ignore these intangible losses when we undertake social cost exercises. For instance the tangible costs of gambling abuse are small; the effect is mainly redistributive, rather than loss of effective production.  But the human costs are substantial. To ignore them would be to conclude there is no problem gambling.

<> <>Brian Easton

<>Wellington