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The Impossibility of a Prescriptive Paretian

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  • Paretianism
  • Welfarism
  • Jurisprudence
  • Law And Economics
  • Law And Society
  • Public Law And Legal Theory


Most normatively oriented economists appear to be “welfarist” and Paretian to one degree or another: They deem responsiveness to individual preferences, and satisfaction of one or more of the Pareto criteria, to be a desirable attribute of any social welfare function. I show that no strictly “welfarist” or Paretian social welfare function can be normatively prescriptive. Economists who prescribe must embrace at least one value apart from or additional to “welfarism” and Paretianism, and in fact will do best to dispense with Pareto entirely.

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