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Why Satisfy Preferences?


  • Daniel M. Hausman


Contemporary mainstream normative economists assess policies in terms of their capacities to satisfy preferences, though most would concede that other factors such as freedom, rights, and justice are also relevant. Why should policy be responsive to preferences? This essay argues that the best reason is that people's preferences are in some circumstances good evidence of what will benefit them. When those circumstances do not obtain and preferences are not good evidence of welfare, there is little reason to satisfy preferences.

Suggested Citation

  • Daniel M. Hausman, 2012. "Why Satisfy Preferences?," Papers on Economics and Evolution 2011-24, Philipps University Marburg, Department of Geography.
  • Handle: RePEc:esi:evopap:2011-24

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Zerbe, Richard Jr. & Bauman, Yoram & Finkle, Aaron, 2006. "An aggregate measure for benefit-cost analysis," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 58(3), pages 449-461, June.
    2. Frank, Robert H, 2000. "Why Is Cost-Benefit Analysis So Controversial?," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 29(2), pages 913-930, June.
    3. Hausman, Daniel M. & McPherson, Michael S., 2009. "Preference Satisfaction And Welfare Economics," Economics and Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 25(1), pages 1-25, March.
    4. Samuel Fankhauser & Richard Tol & DAVID Pearce, 1997. "The Aggregation of Climate Change Damages: a Welfare Theoretic Approach," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 10(3), pages 249-266, October.
    5. Sugden, Robert & Williams, Alan, 1978. "The Principles of Practical Cost-Benefit Analysis," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198770411.
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    Blog mentions

    As found by, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Preferences in politics
      by chris dillow in Stumbling and Mumbling on 2012-01-22 18:42:21
    2. The preferences problem
      by chris dillow in Stumbling and Mumbling on 2013-09-19 21:03:00
    3. Immigration: the preference problem
      by chris dillow in Stumbling and Mumbling on 2014-05-23 18:11:41
    4. Preferences vs interests
      by chris dillow in Stumbling and Mumbling on 2014-09-09 18:41:16
    5. Out of touch?
      by chris dillow in Stumbling and Mumbling on 2014-10-13 18:44:21
    6. On socialized preferences
      by chris in Stumbling and Mumbling on 2018-04-09 13:38:16
    7. On constraints in politics
      by chris in Stumbling and Mumbling on 2019-10-29 15:55:06
    8. On socially influenced preferences
      by chris in Stumbling and Mumbling on 2020-02-02 13:06:32
    9. What the people want
      by chris in Stumbling and Mumbling on 2023-05-16 08:14:09


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    Cited by:

    1. Nesje, Frikk, 2020. "Cross-dynastic Intergenerational Altruism," Working Papers 0678, University of Heidelberg, Department of Economics.

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