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The News of the Death of Welfare Economics is Greatly Exaggerated

Listed author(s):
  • Marc Fleurbaey

    ()

    (CATT - IDEP)

  • Philippe Mongin

    (CECO - Laboratoire d'econometrie de l'école polytechnique - CNRS - Polytechnique - X)

The paper reexamines the controversy about Bergson-Samuelson social welfare functions (BSF) that took place between welfare economists and social choice theorists as a consequence of Arrow's impossibility theorem. The 1970's witnessed a new version of the theorem that was meant to establish that BSF "make interpersonal comparisons of utility or are dictatorial''. Against this, Samuelson reasserted the existence of well-behaved "ordinalist'' BSF and generally denied the relevance of Arrovian impossibilities to welfare economics. The paper formalizes and reassesses each camp's arguments. While being also critical of Samuelson's, it eventually endorses his conclusion that welfare economics was left untouched by the controversy. It draws some connections of BSF with contemporary normative economics.

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Paper provided by HAL in its series Working Papers with number hal-00242931.

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Date of creation: 2004
Handle: RePEc:hal:wpaper:hal-00242931
Note: View the original document on HAL open archive server: https://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-00242931
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References listed on IDEAS
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  1. Amartya K. Sen, 1971. "Choice Functions and Revealed Preference," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 38(3), pages 307-317.
  2. Nicolas Gravel, 2001. "On the difficulty of combining actual and potential criteria for an increase in social welfare," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 17(1), pages 163-180.
  3. Kevin W. S. Roberts, 1980. "Social Choice Theory: The Single-profile and Multi-profile Approaches," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 47(2), pages 441-450.
  4. FLEURBAEY, Marc & MANIQUET, François, "undated". "Fair income tax," CORE Discussion Papers RP 1845, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
  5. Robert P. Parks, 1976. "An Impossibility Theorem for Fixed Preferences: A Dictatorial Bergson-Samuelson Welfare Function," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 43(3), pages 447-450.
  6. Elisha A. Pazner & David Schmeidler, 1975. "Egalitarian Equivalent Allocations: A New Concept of Economic Equity," Discussion Papers 174, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  7. Marc Fleurbaey & François Maniquet, 2007. "Help the Low Skilled or Let the Hardworking Thrive? A Study of Fairness in Optimal Income Taxation," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 9(3), pages 467-500, 06.
  8. Suzumura Kotaro, 1998. "Paretian Welfare Judgements and Bergsonian Social Choice," Discussion Paper Series a341, Institute of Economic Research, Hitotsubashi University.
  9. Kemp, Murray C & Ng, Yew-Kwang, 1976. "On the Existence of Social Welfare Functions, Social Orderings and Social Decision Functions," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 43(169), pages 59-66, February.
  10. 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.
  11. Mongin, Philippe, 2006. "Normes et jugements de valeur en économie normative," Les Cahiers de Recherche 858, HEC Paris.
  12. Stephan Boehm & Christian Gehrke & Heinz D. Kurz & Richard Sturn (ed.), 2002. "Is There Progress in Economics?," Books, Edward Elgar Publishing, number 2403.
  13. Blackorby, Charles & Donaldson, David & Weymark, John A, 1984. "Social Choice with Interpersonal Utility Comparisons: A Diagrammatic Introduction," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 25(2), pages 327-356, June.
  14. FLEURBAEY, Marc & MANIQUET, François, "undated". "Fair social orderings," CORE Discussion Papers RP 1995, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
  15. Marc Fleurbaey & Maurice Salles & John Weymark, 2008. "Justice, Political Liberalism and Utilitarianism," Post-Print hal-00246415, HAL.
  16. Kemp, Murray C & Ng, Yew-Kwang, 1977. "More on Social Welfare Functions: The Incompatibility of Individualism and Ordinalism," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 44(173), pages 89-90, February.
  17. Sen, Amartya K, 1977. "On Weights and Measures: Informational Constraints in Social Welfare Analysis," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 45(7), pages 1539-1572, October.
  18. P. Mongin, 2000. "Is there progress in normative economics ?," THEMA Working Papers 2000-37, THEMA (THéorie Economique, Modélisation et Applications), Université de Cergy-Pontoise.
  19. Suzumura, Kotaro, 2001. "Pareto principles from Inch to Ell," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 70(1), pages 95-98, January.
  20. Atkinson, Anthony B, 2001. "The Strange Disappearance of Welfare Economics," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 54(2-3), pages 193-206.
  21. Kemp, Murray C. & Ng, Yew-Kwang, 1982. "The incompatibility of individualism and ordinalism," Mathematical Social Sciences, Elsevier, vol. 3(1), pages 33-37, July.
  22. Mongin, Philippe, 1998. "Does optimization imply rationality?," MPRA Paper 37740, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  23. Weymark, John A., 1998. "Welfarism on economic domains1," Mathematical Social Sciences, Elsevier, vol. 36(3), pages 251-268, December.
  24. Little, I. M. D., 1999. "Collection and Recollections: Economic Papers and their Provenance," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198295242, December.
  25. Georges Bordes & Peter J. Hammond & Michel Le Breton, 2005. "Social Welfare Functionals on Restricted Domains and in Economic Environments," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 7(1), pages 1-25, 02.
  26. Marc Fleurbaey, 2003. "On the informational basis of social choice," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 21(2), pages 347-384, October.
  27. Robert A. Pollak, 1979. "Bergson-Samuelson Social Welfare Functions and the Theory of Social Choice," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 93(1), pages 73-90.
  28. I. M. D. Little, 1952. "Social Choice and Individual Values," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 60, pages 422-422.
  29. Kemp, Murray C. & Ng, Yew-Kwang, 1983. "Individualistic social welfare functions under ordinalism: a reply to Mayston," Mathematical Social Sciences, Elsevier, vol. 4(3), pages 305-307, July.
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