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How to Use Multiattribute Utility Measurement for Social Decisionmaking

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Arguments over public policy typically turn out to hinge on disagreements about public values. Often, those in conflict may agree about what the relevant dimensions of value are. The conflicts arise over the relative importance of various goals. Normally, such disagreements are fought out in the contexts of specific decisions, and so are fought out over and over again, at enormous social cost each time another decision must be made. This paper proposes a method that can spell out explicitly what each individual's or group's values are, showing how and how much they differ-and in the process can frequently reduce the extent of such differences. It presents data illustrating the application of this technology, multiattribute utility measurement, to two specific instances: management of the coastal zone of the town of Venice, a part of Los Angeles, CA; and selection of research programs for the Office of Child Development, Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. In both cases, exploitation of multiattribute utility measurement permits the decisionmaking or regulatory agencies to shift their attention from the specific actions, being regulated to the values these actions serve and the decisionmaking mechanisms that implement these values. In the process, the data show that degree of disagreement about values among holders of conflicting value systems are often reduced.

Published in:

Systems, Man and Cybernetics, IEEE Transactions on  (Volume:7 ,  Issue: 5 )

Date of Publication:

May 1977

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