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Interpersonal level comparability implies comparability of utility differences

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  • Yew-Kwang Ng

Abstract

It is generally believed that the possibility of making interpersonal comparisons of utility levels (as required, e.g.,in applying the Rawlsian maximin criterion) does not require interpersonal comparison of utility differences (which involve cardinal utilities). Thus, if we are confined to level comparability, it is believed that no cardinal utility need be involved. Here, I wish to show that, with some very general conditions, the general possibility of interpersonal comparison of utility levels implies interpersonal comparison of utility differences (or unit comparability, with suitablescaling). Thus,the sufficiency of ordinalism is a mistaken belief.

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File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/BF00160980
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Monash University, Department of Economics in its series Monash Economics Working Papers with number archive-20.

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Length: 7 pages
Date of creation: 1984
Date of revision:
Publication status: Published in Theory and Decision, Volume 17, Number 2 (1984), 141-147.
Handle: RePEc:mos:moswps:archive-20

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Postal: Department of Economics, Monash University, Victoria 3800, Australia
Phone: +61-3-9905-2493
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Web page: http://www.buseco.monash.edu.au/eco/
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Cited by:
  1. Louis Kaplow, 2008. "Optimal Policy with Heterogeneous Preferences," NBER Working Papers 14170, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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