Wednesday, October 3, 2007

The Value of Life in Developing Countries

The recent Congressional hearings about the role of Blackwater security agents in Iraq revealed this tidbit, as written about by Maureen Dowd:

To compensate the family of an Iraqi guard accidentally shot to death by a Blackwater agent, an office in the State Department countenanced against awarding $250,000 lest other Iraqis decide to try and be accidentally killed. Rather, the department suggested a sum of $15,000.

Can the value of human life be measured in dollars? If so, is it a constant, or does it depend on other circumstances? If the latter, what do those circumstances include? Income? The level of background risk? Health economists seek to answer these difficult questions.