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The Impossibility of a Paretian Liberal

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  • Sen, Amartya Kumar

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Sen, Amartya Kumar, 1970. "The Impossibility of a Paretian Liberal," Scholarly Articles 3612779, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:hrv:faseco:3612779
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    1. Tanner, J Ernest, 1970. "Empirical Evidence on the Short-Run Real Balance Effect in Canada," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 2(4), pages 473-485, November.
    2. Starrett, David A, 1970. "The Efficiency of Competitive Programs," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 38(5), pages 704-711, September.
    3. Feldstein, Martin S, 1974. "Social Security, Induced Retirement, and Aggregate Capital Accumulation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(5), pages 905-926, Sept./Oct.
    4. Grossman, Herschel I & Lucas, Robert F, 1974. "The Macro-Economic Effects of Productive Public Expenditures," The Manchester School of Economic & Social Studies, University of Manchester, vol. 42(2), pages 162-170, June.
    5. Kochin, Levis A, 1974. "Are Future Taxes Anticipated by Consumers? Comment," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 6(3), pages 385-394, August.
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