By I. M. D. Little

ISBN-10: 0195664647

ISBN-13: 9780195664645

ISBN-10: 0198281196

ISBN-13: 9780198281191

First released in 1950, this ebook used to be fascinated by the exposition, feedback, and appreciation of the idea of financial welfare because it were built to that date. Now reissued, Little has further a brand new retrospective preface during which he assesses the contribution the e-book made within the mild of next literature within the sector.

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Additional info for A Critique of Welfare Economics

Sample text

First, it is said that satisfactions cannot be added. Therefore it is meaningless to speak of the happiness of the community as the sum total of the happinesses of individuals, and the happiness of individuals as the sum total of their satisfactions. The result of this criticism has been the general acceptance of a theory based on the view that only the ordinal number system, and not the cardinal number system, may be applied to satisfactions. In other words, one can say when one has more or less satisfaction, but one cannot say how much one has.

12. 3 Strictly speaking, welfare was held to belong only to states of individuals' minds, but might include 'psychic returns' other than satisfactions. 1 Thus Professor Pigou believed that he was discussing the causes of changes in the welfare of society in much the same way as one might discuss the reasons why the level of a river or a pond might change, and in what ways one could influence the level. Economic welfare was like a fluid or a gas which, although perhaps difficult to measure, was in principle measurable, so that changes in the amount of it could be experienced and described, and the causes of such changes discovered.

Much the same can be said about words, even if they do not form part of a self-consistent circular logical system. For instance, in formulating the indifference-curve analysis we used the word 'good', and stated that by definition more 'goods' give more satisfaction than fewer 'goods'. This was not just arbitrary. The word has, I think, come to be used in this way in economics. But very often it is not easy to tell whether a word used in economics has its ordinary meaning, or whether, by a gradual process of evolution, it has come to have a definition, or a partial definition.

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A Critique of Welfare Economics by I. M. D. Little


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