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Entanglement throughout Economic Science: The End of a Separate Welfare Economics

  • Hilary Putnam
  • Vivian Walsh
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    In the 1980s, Amartya Sen (1987, p. 51) complained of 'the impoverishment of welfare economics'. By 1993, Sir Partha Dasgupta (1993, p. 71), citing Hilary Putnam, had embraced the entanglement of theory, facts and values, and presented a theoretically rigorous, factually based, and deeply ethical social welfare function, which has rich non-utilitarian ethical elements sharply distinguishing it from the old 'welfarist' construction, and which he called a social evaluation function. Those things that the 'new' welfare economics had notoriously shied away from, above all interpersonal comparisons, are in full flower in Dasgupta's concept, and he is so confident of the moral support of his colleagues in the field that he seldom discusses ethical issues. Could one ask for anything more? We believe one can, and that framing this work as a separate branch of economics called 'welfare theory' limits its reach and influence, and offers its enemies an excuse for evading its message. What is more we argue that the logical entailments of entanglement render the concept of a separate 'welfare' economics meaningless.

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    Article provided by Taylor & Francis Journals in its journal Review of Political Economy.

    Volume (Year): 21 (2009)
    Issue (Month): 2 ()
    Pages: 291-297

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    Handle: RePEc:taf:revpoe:v:21:y:2009:i:2:p:291-297
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