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Fairness Versus Welfare: Notes on the Pareto Principle, Preferences, and Distributive Justice

Listed author(s):
  • Louis Kaplow
  • Steven Shavell

In Fairness versus Welfare, we advance the thesis that social policies should be assessed based entirely on their effects on individuals' well-being. This thesis implies that no independent weight should be accorded to notions of fairness (other than many purely distributive notions). We support our thesis in three ways: by demonstrating how notions of fairness perversely reduce welfare, indeed, sometimes everyone's well-being; by revealing numerous other deficiencies in the notions, including their lack of sound rationales; and by providing an account of notions of fairness that explains their intuitive appeal in a manner that reinforces the conclusion that they should not be treated as independent principles in policy assessment. In this essay, we discuss these three themes and comment on issues raised by Richard Craswell, Lewis Kornhauser, and Jeremy Waldron.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 9622.

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Date of creation: Apr 2003
Publication status: published as Kaplow, Louis and Steven Shavell. "Reply: Notes On Welfarist Versus Deontological Principles," Economics and Philosophy, 20(1): 209-215, April 2004
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9622
Note: LE PE
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  1. Jeremy Waldron, 2003. "Locating Distribution," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 32(1), pages 277-302, January.
  2. Kaplow, Louis & Shavell, Steven, 1994. "Why the Legal System Is Less Efficient Than the Income Tax in Redistributing Income," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 23(2), pages 667-681, June.
  3. Richard Craswell, 2003. "Kaplow and Shavell on the Substance of Fairness," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 32(1), pages 245-275, January.
  4. Kaplow, Louis & Shavell, Steven, 1999. "The Conflict between Notions of Fairness and the Pareto Principle," American Law and Economics Review, Oxford University Press, vol. 1(1-2), pages 63-77, Fall.
  5. Louis Kaplow & Steven Shavell, 2001. "Any Non-welfarist Method of Policy Assessment Violates the Pareto Principle," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 109(2), pages 281-286, April.
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