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Does Egalitarianism Have a Future?


  • Louis Putterman
  • John E. Roemer
  • Joaquim Silvestre


The fall of Communism, the reassessment of Nordic social democracy, belt-tightening in other advanced welfare states, and the worldwide privatization wave have led many to conclude that egalitarianism is a merely utopian ideal, the possibility of whose realization is laid to rest by the failure of a series of twentieth-century social experiments. We survey the evidence, both empirical and theoretical, and conclude that obituaries are premature. Key theoretical errors in the design of egalitarian experiments, and in some critiques of pro-egalitarian policies, concern the role of information asymmetries, and we argue that their proper understanding re-opens possibilities for increasing equality without unacceptable sacrifices in efficiency.

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  • Louis Putterman & John E. Roemer & Joaquim Silvestre, 1998. "Does Egalitarianism Have a Future?," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 36(2), pages 861-902, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:jeclit:v:36:y:1998:i:2:p:861-902

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Ted Bergstrom, "undated". "Primogeniture, Monogamy, and Reproductive Success in a Stratified Society," Papers _031, University of Michigan, Department of Economics.
    2. Donald Cox & Oded Stark, 1996. "Intergenerational Transfers and the Demonstration Effect," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 329., Boston College Department of Economics.
    3. Ted Bergstrom, "undated". "On the Economic of Polygyny," Papers _032, University of Michigan, Department of Economics.
    4. Ronald Lee, 1980. "Age Structure, Intergenerational Transfers and Economic Growth : an Overview," Revue Économique, Programme National Persée, vol. 31(6), pages 1129-1156.
    5. Bergstrom, Theodore C., 1993. "A survey of theories of the family," Handbook of Population and Family Economics,in: M. R. Rosenzweig & Stark, O. (ed.), Handbook of Population and Family Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 2, pages 21-79 Elsevier.
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