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Fairness Versus Welfare: Notes on the Pareto Principle, Preferences, and Distributive Justice

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  • Louis Kaplow
  • Steven Shavell

Abstract

In Fairness versus Welfare, we advance the thesis that social policies should be assessed based entirely on their effects on individuals' well-being. This thesis implies that no independent weight should be accorded to notions of fairness (other than many purely distributive notions). We support our thesis in three ways: by demonstrating how notions of fairness perversely reduce welfare, indeed, sometimes everyone's well-being; by revealing numerous other deficiencies in the notions, including their lack of sound rationales; and by providing an account of notions of fairness that explains their intuitive appeal in a manner that reinforces the conclusion that they should not be treated as independent principles in policy assessment. In this essay, we discuss these three themes and comment on issues raised by Richard Craswell, Lewis Kornhauser, and Jeremy Waldron.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 9622.

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Date of creation: Apr 2003
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Publication status: published as Kaplow, Louis and Steven Shavell. "Reply: Notes On Welfarist Versus Deontological Principles," Economics and Philosophy, 20(1): 209-215, April 2004
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9622

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  1. Kaplow, Louis & Shavell, Steven, 1994. "Why the Legal System Is Less Efficient Than the Income Tax in Redistributing Income," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, University of Chicago Press, vol. 23(2), pages 667-81, June.
  2. Louis Kaplow & Steven Shavell, 2001. "Any Non-welfarist Method of Policy Assessment Violates the Pareto Principle," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, University of Chicago Press, vol. 109(2), pages 281-286, April.
  3. Kaplow, Louis & Shavell, Steven, 1999. "The Conflict between Notions of Fairness and the Pareto Principle," American Law and Economics Review, Oxford University Press, Oxford University Press, vol. 1(1-2), pages 63-77, Fall.
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Cited by:
  1. Jeffrey Wagner & Luiz Freitas, 2007. "Capturing moral economic context," Economics Bulletin, AccessEcon, vol. 4(14), pages 1-10.
  2. repec:ebl:ecbull:v:4:y:2007:i:14:p:1-10 is not listed on IDEAS
  3. Safarzyńska, Karolina, 2013. "Evolutionary-economic policies for sustainable consumption," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 90(C), pages 187-195.
  4. Mark White, 2004. "Preaching to the choir: A response to Kaplow and Shavell's Fairness Versus Welfare," Review of Political Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 16(4), pages 507-515.
  5. Antonides, Gerrit & Kroft, Maaike, 2005. "Fairness judgments in household decision making," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 26(6), pages 902-913, December.
  6. Olivier STERCK & Olivia D’AOUST, 2012. "Who Benefits from Customary Justice? Rent-seeking, Bribery and Criminality in Sub-Saharan Africa," Discussion Papers (IRES - Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales), Université catholique de Louvain, Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES) 2012015, Université catholique de Louvain, Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES).

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