Introduction to social choice and welfare
Social choice theory is concerned with the evaluation of alternative methods of collective decision-making, as well as with the logical foundations of welfare economics. In turn, welfare economics is concerned with the critical scrutiny of the performance of actual and/or imaginary economic systems, as well as with the critique, design and implementation of alternative economic policies. The Handbook of Social Choice and Welfare, which is edited by Kenneth Arrow, Amartya Sen and Kotaro Suzumura, presents, in two volumes, essays on past and on-going work in social choice theory and welfare economics. This paper is written as an extensive introduction to the Handbook with the purpose of placing the broad issues examined in the two volumes in better perspective, discussing the historical background of social choice theory, the vistas opened by Arrow's Social Choice and Individual Values, the famous "socialist planning" controversy, and the theoretical and practical significance of social choice theory.
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