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On the problematic link between fundamental ethics and economic policy recommendations

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  • Olof Johansson-Stenman

Abstract

This paper provides a systematic survey of major simplifying assumptions that economists make, and often have to make, in order to obtain a useful theory for policy recommendations in practice. The aim is to consider the whole chain of assumptions with an emphasis on such simplifications that economists sometimes tend to ignore (at worst), or at best often tend not to take very seriously. The paper concludes that the link from fundamental ethics to economic policy recommendations is often very fragile, but that this is neither a convincing argument for economists to ignore normative issues, nor a reason to pretend that policy recommendations can be derived without value judgements. In order to improve the link it is recommended that welfare economists sometimes move beyond reductionist individualism and learn more from other social sciences regarding preference formation, decision behaviour, and the creation of values, institutions and social norms.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Taylor & Francis Journals in its journal Journal of Economic Methodology.

Volume (Year): 5 (1998)
Issue (Month): 2 ()
Pages: 263-297

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Handle: RePEc:taf:jecmet:v:5:y:1998:i:2:p:263-297

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Related research

Keywords: ethics; moral philosophy; normative economics; welfare economics; policy recommendations; simplifying assumptions;

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Cited by:
  1. Johansson-Stenman, Olof, 2001. "Should We Use Distributional Weights in CBA When Income Taxes Can Deal with Equity?," Working Papers in Economics 35, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics.
  2. Kverndokk, Snorre & Rose , Adam, 2008. "Equity and Justice in Global Warming Policy," Memorandum 21/2008, Oslo University, Department of Economics.
  3. Wicks, Rick, 2011. "Assumption without representation: the unacknowledged abstraction from communities and social goods," MPRA Paper 51674, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  4. Olof Johansson-Stenman, 2000. "On the Value of Life in Rich and Poor Countries and Distributional Weights Beyond Utilitarianism," Environmental & Resource Economics, European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 17(3), pages 299-310, November.

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