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On the possibility of an anti-paternalist behavioural welfare economics

Thoma, Johanna ORCID: 0000-0002-1364-4521 (2021) On the possibility of an anti-paternalist behavioural welfare economics. Journal of Economic Methodology, 28 (4). 350 - 363. ISSN 1469-9427

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Identification Number: 10.1080/1350178X.2021.1972128


Behavioural economics has taught us that human agents don't always display consistent, context-independent and stable preferences in their choice behaviour. Can we nevertheless do welfare economics in a way that lives up to the anti-paternalist ideal most economists subscribe to? I here discuss Sugden's powerful critique of most previous attempts at doing so, which he dubs the ‘New Consensus’, as appealing to problematic notions of latent preference and inner rational agency. I elaborate on a fundamental rethinking of the normative foundations of anti-paternalist welfare measurement that often remains implicit in the behavioural welfare economics literature Sugden discusses, but which is required to make these accounts minimally plausible. I argue that, if we go along with this rethinking, Bernheim and Rangel's [(2007). Toward choice-theoretic foundations for behavioural welfare economics. American Economic Review, Papers and Proceedings, 97, 464–470.; (2009). Beyond revealed preference: Choice-theoretic foundations for behavioural welfare economics. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 124(1), 51–104.] choice-theoretic framework withstands Sugden's criticism. Sugden's own, more radical proposal is thus under-motivated by his critique of the ‘New Consensus’.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2021 The Author
Divisions: Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology
H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
Date Deposited: 23 Aug 2021 09:00
Last Modified: 13 Jun 2022 08:42

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