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On the problematic link between fundamental ethics and economic policy recommendations

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  • Olof Johansson-Stenman

Abstract

This paper provides a systematic survey of major simplifying assumptions that economists make, and often have to make, in order to obtain a useful theory for policy recommendations in practice. The aim is to consider the whole chain of assumptions with an emphasis on such simplifications that economists sometimes tend to ignore (at worst), or at best often tend not to take very seriously. The paper concludes that the link from fundamental ethics to economic policy recommendations is often very fragile, but that this is neither a convincing argument for economists to ignore normative issues, nor a reason to pretend that policy recommendations can be derived without value judgements. In order to improve the link it is recommended that welfare economists sometimes move beyond reductionist individualism and learn more from other social sciences regarding preference formation, decision behaviour, and the creation of values, institutions and social norms.

Suggested Citation

  • Olof Johansson-Stenman, 1998. "On the problematic link between fundamental ethics and economic policy recommendations," Journal of Economic Methodology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 5(2), pages 263-297.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:jecmet:v:5:y:1998:i:2:p:263-297
    DOI: 10.1080/13501789800000016
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Thorstein Veblen, 1899. "Mr. Cummings's Strictures on "The Theory of the Leisure Class"," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 8, pages 106-106.
    2. Tuomala, Matti, 1990. "Optimal Income Tax and Redistribution," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198286059.
    3. Baumol,William J. & Oates,Wallace E., 1988. "The Theory of Environmental Policy," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521322249, April.
    4. Veblen, Thorstein, 1899. "The Theory of the Leisure Class," History of Economic Thought Books, McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought, number veblen1899.
    5. Kjell A. Brekke, 1997. "Economic Growth and the Environment," Books, Edward Elgar Publishing, number 807.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Kverndokk, Snorre & Rose, Adam, 2008. "Equity and Justice in Global Warming Policy," International Review of Environmental and Resource Economics, now publishers, vol. 2(2), pages 135-176, October.
    2. Olof Johansson-Stenman, 2005. "Distributional Weights in Cost-Benefit Analysis—Should We Forget about Them?," Land Economics, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 81(3).
    3. Johansson-Stenman, Olof, 2001. "Should We Use Distributional Weights in CBA When Income Taxes Can Deal with Equity?," Working Papers in Economics 35, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics.
    4. Wicks, Rick, 2011. "Assumption without representation: the unacknowledged abstraction from communities and social goods," MPRA Paper 51674, University Library of Munich, Germany.

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