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Back to Buchanan? Explorations of welfare and subjectivism in behavioral economics

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  • Dold, Malte

Abstract

In light of behavioral findings regarding inconsistent individual decision-making, economists have begun to re-conceptualize the notion of welfare. One prominent account is the preference purification approach (PP), which attempts to reconstruct preferences from revealed choices based on a normative understanding of neoclassical rationality. Using Buchanan's notion of creative choice, this paper criticizes PP's epistemic, ontological, and psychological assumptions. It identifies PP as a static position that assumes the satisfaction of given 'true preferences' as the normative standard for welfare. However, following Buchanan, choice should be understood dynamically as a process whereby preferences constantly regenerate. Accordingly, the meaning of welfare emerges from an ongoing quest for individual self-constitution. If this holds true, then rationality axioms cannot serve as a priori normative standards. Instead, creative imagination and learning processes must re-main central to any understanding of welfare in economics.

Suggested Citation

  • Dold, Malte, 2017. "Back to Buchanan? Explorations of welfare and subjectivism in behavioral economics," Discussion Paper Series 2017-03, University of Freiburg, Wilfried Guth Endowed Chair for Constitutional Political Economy and Competition Policy.
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:wgspdp:201703
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    1. Malte F. Dold, 2018. "Back to Buchanan? Explorations of welfare and subjectivism in behavioral economics," Journal of Economic Methodology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 25(2), pages 160-178, April.

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    Keywords

    Behavioral Welfare Economics; Creative Choice; James M. Buchanan; Rationality; Methodology; Subjectivism;

    JEL classification:

    • B41 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Economic Methodology - - - Economic Methodology
    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • P46 - Economic Systems - - Other Economic Systems - - - Consumer Economics; Health; Education and Training; Welfare, Income, Wealth, and Poverty

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