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Do irrelevant commodities matter?


  • Marc Fleurbaey

    () (CERSES - UMR 8137 - Centre de recherche sens, ethique, société - UPD5 - Université Paris Descartes - Paris 5 - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique)

  • Koichi Tadenuma


We study how to evaluate allocations independently of individual preferences over unavailable commodities. We prove impossibility results suggesting that such evaluations encounter serious difficulties. This is related to the well-known problem of performing international comparisons of standard of living across countries with different consumption goods. We show how possibility results can be retrieved with restrictions on the domain of preferences, on the application of the independence axiom or on the set of allocations to be ranked. Such restrictions appear more plausible when the objects of evaluation are allocations of composite commodities, characteristics or human functionings rather than ordinary commodities.

Suggested Citation

  • Marc Fleurbaey & Koichi Tadenuma, 2007. "Do irrelevant commodities matter?," Post-Print hal-00246315, HAL.
  • Handle: RePEc:hal:journl:hal-00246315
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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. LeBreton, M., 1994. "Arrovian Social Choice on Economic Domains," G.R.E.Q.A.M. 94a37, Universite Aix-Marseille III.
    2. Fleurbaey, Marc & Suzumura, Kotaro & Tadenuma, Koichi, 2005. "Arrovian aggregation in economic environments: how much should we know about indifference surfaces?," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 124(1), pages 22-44, September.
    3. Redekop, James, 1991. "Social welfare functions on restricted economic domains," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 53(2), pages 396-427, April.
    4. Border, Kim C., 1983. "Social welfare functions for economic environments with and without the pareto principle," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 29(2), pages 205-216, April.
    5. Marc Fleurbaey & Kotaro Suzumura & Koichi Tadenuma, 2005. "The informational basis of the theory of fair allocation," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 24(2), pages 311-341, April.
    6. Mayston, David J., 1982. "The generation of a social welfare function under ordinal preferences," Mathematical Social Sciences, Elsevier, vol. 3(2), pages 109-129, September.
    7. Donaldson, David & Weymark, John A., 1988. "Social choice in economic environments," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 46(2), pages 291-308, December.
    8. John Bone, 2003. "Simple Arrow-type propositions in the Edgeworth domain," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 20(1), pages 41-48.
    9. M. Fleurbaey & F. Maniquet, 2008. "Fair social orderings," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 34(1), pages 25-45, January.
    10. Elisha A. Pazner & David Schmeidler, 1978. "Egalitarian Equivalent Allocations: A New Concept of Economic Equity," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 92(4), pages 671-687.
    11. Bordes, Georges & Breton, Michel Le, 1989. "Arrovian theorems with private alternatives domains and selfish individuals," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 47(2), pages 257-281, April.
    12. Marc Fleurbaey, 2005. "The Pazner-Schmeidler social ordering: A defense," Review of Economic Design, Springer;Society for Economic Design, vol. 9(2), pages 145-166, April.
    13. Kenneth J. Arrow, 1950. "A Difficulty in the Concept of Social Welfare," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 58, pages 328-328.
    14. M. Fleurbaey & F. Maniquet, 2000. "Fair Social Orderings With Unequal Production Skills," THEMA Working Papers 2000-17, THEMA (THéorie Economique, Modélisation et Applications), Université de Cergy-Pontoise.
    15. Marc Fleurbaey & Maurice Salles & John Weymark, 2008. "Justice, Political Liberalism and Utilitarianism," Post-Print hal-00246415, HAL.
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    Cited by:

    1. Ehlers, Lars & Klaus, Bettina, 2016. "Object allocation via deferred-acceptance: Strategy-proofness and comparative statics," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 97(C), pages 128-146.
    2. de Clippel, Geoffroy & Bejan, Camelia, 2011. "No profitable decompositions in quasi-linear allocation problems," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 146(5), pages 1995-2012, September.
    3. DECANCQ, Koen & FLEURBAEY, Marc & SCHOKKAERT, Erik, 2014. "Inequality, income, and well-being," CORE Discussion Papers 2014018, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).

    More about this item


    consumer preferences; social choice; independence of irrelevant alternatives; characteristics; functionings;

    JEL classification:

    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • D71 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Social Choice; Clubs; Committees; Associations


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