What Is Welfare and How Can We Measure It?

Keith Dowding

in The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Economics

Published in print March 2009 | ISBN: 9780195189254
Published online September 2009 | e-ISBN: 9780199892105 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy

What Is Welfare and How Can We Measure It?

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This article steps back from the traditional route of discussing the philosophical issues of welfare economics. The problem with that general approach is that the account and problems inherent in seeing welfare in terms of choice-based utility (whether ordinal or cardinal) or experiential utility are discussed prior to discussing other ways of examining human welfare. Problems with welfarism and utilitarianism, then, lead to the discussion of other approaches as though they avoid such problems when, in reality, their proponents rarely even stand them up to the issues. Any welfare economics or political philosophy that does not tell how to address public policy issues is not worth the name, and that means there must be a way of comparing the welfare of different people in some manner in order to make judgments about where to spend public money. All approaches suffer from interpersonal comparability problems.

Keywords: welfare economics; choice-based utility; experiential utility; human welfare; welfarism; utilitarianism

Article.  13593 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Science ; Social and Political Philosophy

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