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Evaluating Policy: Welfare Weights And Value Judgements

  • John Creedy

This paper is concerned with the use of social welfare functions in evaluating changes. In particular, it considers suggestions that welfare weights to be used in comparing the gains and losses of different individuals (or other appropriate units of analysis), and a social time preference rate for use in cost benefit evaluation, can be estimated either from consumers’ behaviour or from the judgements implicit in tax policy. It is suggested that results are highly sensitive to the context and model specification assumed. More importantly, the argument that an estimated elasticity of marginal utility or time preference rate should be used in policy evaluations fails to recognise that fundamental value judgements are involved. Various estimates may be of interest, but they cannot be used by economists to impose value judgements. The main contribution economists can make is to examine the implications of adopting a range of alternative value judgements.

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Paper provided by The University of Melbourne in its series Department of Economics - Working Papers Series with number 971.

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Length: 25 pages
Date of creation: 2006
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:mlb:wpaper:971
Contact details of provider: Postal: Department of Economics, The University of Melbourne, 4th Floor, FBE Building, Level 4, 111 Barry Street. Victoria, 3010, Australia
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  1. Frank Cowell, 2006. "Inequality: measurement," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 2686, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  2. Atkinson, Anthony B., 1970. "On the measurement of inequality," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 2(3), pages 244-263, September.
  3. Creedy, J. & van de Ven, J., 2001. "Taxation, Reranking and Equivalence Scales," Department of Economics - Working Papers Series 782, The University of Melbourne.
  4. Pasquale Scaramozzino & Giancarlo Marini, 2000. "Social time preference," Journal of Population Economics, Springer, vol. 13(4), pages 639-645.
  5. David J. Evans, 2005. "The elasticity of marginal utility of consumption: estimates for 20 OECD countries," Fiscal Studies, Institute for Fiscal Studies, vol. 26(2), pages 197-224, June.
  6. Amiel, Yoram & Creedy, John & Hurn, Stan, 1999. " Measuring Attitudes towards Inequality," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 101(1), pages 83-96, March.
  7. Richter, Wolfram F., 1983. "From ability to pay to concepts of equal sacrifice," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(2), pages 211-229, March.
  8. Young, H. P., 1987. "Progressive taxation and the equal sacrifice principle," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(2), pages 203-214, March.
  9. Mera, Koichi, 1969. "Experimental Determination of Relative Marginal Utilities," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 83(3), pages 464-77, August.
  10. Christiansen, Vidar & Jansen, Eilev S., 1978. "Implicit social preferences in the Norwegian system of indirect taxation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 10(2), pages 217-245, October.
  11. Robert J. Brent, 1984. "Use of Distributional Weights in Cost-Benefit Analysis: a Survey of Schools," Public Finance Review, , vol. 12(2), pages 213-230, April.
  12. Gevers, Louis & Glejser, Herbert & Rouyer, Jean, 1979. " Professed Inequality Aversion and Its Error Component," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 81(2), pages 238-43.
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