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A sort of Paretian liberalism


  • S. Subramanian


This paper reviews Amartya Sen's well-known result on 'the impossibility of a Paretian liberal'. In so doing, it takes stock of certain difficulties associated with conventional social choice theoretic formulations of the notion of individual liberty. An alternative formulation, in the spirit of an 'outcome-oriented' version of Nozick's approach to individual liberty as the freedom to fix certain personal features of the world, is advanced. An 'extended' version of a conventional social choice function, called a 'social selection function' (SSF), is introduced: the domain of the SSF is enlarged to include, apart from preference profiles, what are called 'personal choice profiles' and 'rights-waiving profiles'. Within this framework, it is noted that a version of Sen's original impossibility result can be recovered. It is also pointed out that there is an alternative, ethically plausible construction that can be placed on the notion of 'Paretian liberalism', and it is demonstrated that this is a coherent construction.

Suggested Citation

  • S. Subramanian, 2006. "A sort of Paretian liberalism," The Journal of International Trade & Economic Development, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 15(3), pages 311-324.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:jitecd:v:15:y:2006:i:3:p:311-324
    DOI: 10.1080/09638190600871628

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Gaertner, Wulf & Pattanaik, Prasanta K & Suzumura, Kotaro, 1992. "Individual Rights Revisited," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 59(234), pages 161-177, May.
    2. Basu, Kaushik, 1984. "The Right to Give up Rights," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 51(204), pages 413-422, November.
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