Ante-litteram anti-welfarism: the case of Marshall and Pareto
According to Amartya Sen, welfarism was the leading feature of Welfare Economics (WE) in both its ‘Old’ and ‘New’ version until Arrow’s impossibility theorem demonstrated the necessity of doing away with it if welfare theory is to serve as a guide in evaluating alternative policies. This neat story line can be questioned, however, if we consider the contributions of two pre-Arrovian masters like Pareto and Marshall. The paper argues that, although conventionally assigned to the opposite sides of the Old/New WE divide, they shared a similar critical attitude towards welfarism and an analogous awareness of the necessity of using non-utility information to deal with issues of social choice. If they refrained from drawing all the consequences of their critical stances, this can be attributed to philosophical preconceptions rather than theoretical limitations.
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