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Preferences, Rationality and Welfare in Becker's Extended Utility Approach

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  • Ole Rogeberg

Abstract

The controversial extended utility approach of Gary Becker has been used to argue that even `obvious' irrationalities such as drug addictions are rational behaviour. The present article is a systematic and extensive interpretation of Becker's general approach, introducing a distinction between anticipated time and `objective' time. Using this, I argue that the approach allows us to see even time inconsistency and decisions affected by drug-induced changes in cognition as rational. The philosopher Jon Elster's charges of conceptual incoherence are discussed and shown to rest on a misinterpretation of Becker. The two types of time also have implications for welfare economics and the ways one might try to justify paternalism. Becker's approach becomes difficult to use for welfare economics. Instead, it could be taken to question the wisdom of trying to assess real individuals' welfare through theoretical discussions of rationality.

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  • Ole Rogeberg, 2003. "Preferences, Rationality and Welfare in Becker's Extended Utility Approach," Rationality and Society, , vol. 15(3), pages 283-323, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:ratsoc:v:15:y:2003:i:3:p:283-323
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