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The Impossibility of a Paretian Liberal

  • Sen, Amartya Kumar
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    The purpose of this paper is to present an impossibility result that seems to have some disturbing consequences for principles of social choice. A common objection to the method of majority decision is that it is illiberal. The argument takes the following form: Given other things in the society, if you prefer to have pink walls rather than white, then society should permit you to have this, even if a majority of the community would like to see your walls white. Similarly, whether you should sleep on your back or on your belly is a matter in which the society should permit you absolute freedom, even if a majority of the community is nosey enough to feel that you must sleep on your back. We formalize this concept of individual liberty in an extremely weak form and examine its consequences.

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    Paper provided by Harvard University Department of Economics in its series Scholarly Articles with number 3612779.

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    Date of creation: 1970
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    Publication status: Published in Journal of Political Economy -Chicago-
    Handle: RePEc:hrv:faseco:3612779
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