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Social Choice Theory and the Informational Basis Approach

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Abstract

For over a quarter of a century, the use of utility information based upon interpersonal comparisons has been seen as an escape route from the Arrow Impossibility Theorem. This paper critically examines this informational basis approach to social choice. Even with comparability of differences and levels, feasible social choice rules must be insensitive to a range of distributional issues. Also, the Pareto principle is not solely to blame for the inability to adopt rules combining utility and non-utility information: if the Pareto principle is not invoked then there is no way of combining utility and non-utility information in a ranking of states unless levels of utility are comparable; with only level comparability, information must be combined in restrictive ways and the notion of giving different independent weight to different considerations is ruled out. If informational bases are viewed as the restriction on information that is available, rather than a theoretical limit on information, then there exist methods to estimate richer informational structures and overcome some of these difficulties.

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  • Kevin Roberts, 2005. "Social Choice Theory and the Informational Basis Approach," Economics Papers 2005-W23, Economics Group, Nuffield College, University of Oxford.
  • Handle: RePEc:nuf:econwp:0523
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    1. Kevin W. S. Roberts, 1980. "Interpersonal Comparability and Social Choice Theory," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 47(2), pages 421-439.
    2. Sen, Amartya, 1970. "Interpersonal Aggregation and Partial Comparability," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 38(3), pages 393-409, May.
    3. Basu, Kaushik, 1983. "Cardinal utility, utilitarianism, and a class of invariance axioms in welfare analysis," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 12(3), pages 193-206, December.
    4. Kevin W. S. Roberts, 1980. "Social Choice Theory: The Single-profile and Multi-profile Approaches," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 47(2), pages 441-450.
    5. Sen, Amartya & Pattanaik, Prasanta K., 1969. "Necessary and sufficient conditions for rational choice under majority decision," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 1(2), pages 178-202, August.
    6. Hammond, Peter J, 1976. "Equity, Arrow's Conditions, and Rawls' Difference Principle," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 44(4), pages 793-804, July.
    7. Marc Fleurbaey, 2003. "On the informational basis of social choice," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 21(2), pages 347-384, October.
    8. Gevers, Louis, 1979. "On Interpersonal Comparability and Social Welfare Orderings," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(1), pages 75-89, January.
    9. Deschamps, Robert & Gevers, Louis, 1978. "Leximin and utilitarian rules: A joint characterization," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 17(2), pages 143-163, April.
    10. Sen, Amartya K, 1979. "Personal Utilities and Public Judgements: Or What's Wrong with Welfare Economics?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 89(355), pages 537-558, September.
    11. Robert P. Parks, 1976. "An Impossibility Theorem for Fixed Preferences: A Dictatorial Bergson-Samuelson Welfare Function," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 43(3), pages 447-450.
    12. Amartya Sen, 1999. "The Possibility of Social Choice," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(3), pages 349-378, June.
    13. Sen, Amartya K, 1977. "On Weights and Measures: Informational Constraints in Social Welfare Analysis," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 45(7), pages 1539-1572, October.
    14. Kevin W. S. Roberts, 1980. "Possibility Theorems with Interpersonally Comparable Welfare Levels," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 47(2), pages 409-420.
    15. Wilson, Robert, 1972. "Social choice theory without the Pareto Principle," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 5(3), pages 478-486, December.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • D71 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Social Choice; Clubs; Committees; Associations

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