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Revisiting the history of welfare economics

Abstract : Our forthcoming book, Welfare Theory, Public Action and Ethical Values challenges the belief that, until modern welfare economics introduced issues such as justice, freedom and equality, economists adopted what Amartya Sen called "welfarism." This is the belief that the welfare of society depends solely on the ordinal utilities of the individuals making up the society. Containing chapters on some of the leading twentieth-century economists, including Walras, Marshall, Pigou, Pareto, Samuelson, Musgrave, Hicks, Arrow, Coase and Sen, as well as lesser-known figures, including Ruskin, Hobson and contributors to the literature on capabilities, the book argues that, whatever their theoretical commitments, when economists have considered practical problems they have adopted a wider range of ethical values, attaching weight to equality, justice and freedom. Part 1 explains the concepts of welfarism and non-welfarism and explores ways in which economists have departed from welfarism when tackling practical problems and public policy. Part 2 explores the reasons for this. When moving away from abstract theories to consider practical problems it is often hard not to take an ethical position and economists have often been willing to do so. We conclude that economics needs to recognise this and to become more of a moral science.
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Submitted on : Monday, September 14, 2020 - 3:56:46 PM
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  • HAL Id : halshs-02937994, version 1


Roger Backhouse, Antoinette Baujard, Tamotsu Nishizawa. Revisiting the history of welfare economics. 2020. ⟨halshs-02937994⟩



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