Preferences versus Opportunities: On the Conceptual Foundations of Normative Welfare Economics

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Abstract

Normative welfare economics commonly assumes that individuals’ preferences can be reliably inferred from their choices and relies on preference satisfaction as the normative standard for welfare. In recent years, several authors have criticized welfare economists’ reliance on preference satisfaction as the normative standard for welfare and have advocated grounding normative welfare economics on opportunities rather than preferences. In this paper, I argue that although preference-based approaches to normative welfare economics face significant conceptual and practical challenges, opportunity-based approaches fail to provide a more reliable and informative foundation for normative welfare economics than preference-based approaches. I then identify and rebut various influential calls to ground normative welfare economics on opportunities rather than preferences to support my qualified defence of preference-based approaches.
Original languageEnglish
JournalECONOMICS AND PHILOSOPHY
Early online date27 Dec 2022
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 27 Dec 2022

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