There exists within the United States today, a debate that draws interest from three spheres of activity that only on occasion have interests in common. The purpose of this paper is to describe the debate to those who are not direct participants, but more importantly, to identify the elements in the debate that have caused it to be a topic of conversation and heated controversy in the academic, legal and political communities.
The paper provides a brief discussion of the theoretical foundation for total economic value (a term that encompasses passive use) and describes how the structure of a CV study is used to measure total value. The paper then discusses the role that monetary estimates of passive use play in judicial proceedings and public decision making. Because much of the debate focuses on the validity of CV estimates of passive use, the paper next addresses the validity/reliability issue and touches upon the academic arguments and the legal requirements likely to be imposed on CV estimates of lost passive use if they are to be admitted as evidence in U.S. courts. The paper closes with some thoughts regarding the future path of the debate and speculates about the role CV estimates of passive use might play in public decision making.