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Interpersonal level comparability implies comparability of utility differences

Listed author(s):
  • Yew-Kwang Ng

It is generally believed that the possibility of making interpersonal comparisons of utility levels (as required, e.g.,in applying the Rawlsian maximin criterion) does not require interpersonal comparison of utility differences (which involve cardinal utilities). Thus, if we are confined to level comparability, it is believed that no cardinal utility need be involved. Here, I wish to show that, with some very general conditions, the general possibility of interpersonal comparison of utility levels implies interpersonal comparison of utility differences (or unit comparability, with suitablescaling). Thus,the sufficiency of ordinalism is a mistaken belief.

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Paper provided by Monash University, Department of Economics in its series Monash Economics Working Papers with number archive-20.

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Length: 7 pages
Date of creation: 1984
Publication status: Published in Theory and Decision, Volume 17, Number 2 (1984), 141-147.
Handle: RePEc:mos:moswps:archive-20
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Department of Economics, Monash University, Victoria 3800, Australia

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