A reformulation of the foundations of welfare economics

A reformulation of the foundations of welfare economics Neoclassical welfare economics takes an outcome-oriented approach that uses Pareto optimality as its benchmark for welfare maximization. When one looks at the remarkable improvements in economic welfare that have characterized market economies, most of those improvements in welfare have been due to economic progress that has introduced new and improved goods and services into the economy, and innovations in production methods that have brought costs down, leading to higher real incomes. Pareto optimality is only peripherally related to actual economic welfare, and no economist would argue that people are materially better off today than a century ago because the economy is closer to Pareto optimality. After analyzing the actual factors that lead to improvements in welfare, this paper suggests a reformulation of the foundations of welfare economics to replace the almost irrelevant outcome-oriented concept of Pareto optimality as the benchmark for evaluating welfare with a process-oriented benchmark based on factors that generate economic progress. The paper then explores some implications of this reformulation. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png The Review of Austrian Economics Springer Journals

A reformulation of the foundations of welfare economics

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Publisher
Springer US
Copyright
Copyright © 2009 by Springer Science+Business Media, LLC
Subject
Economics; Public Finance; Political Science; History of Economic Thought/Methodology
ISSN
0889-3047
eISSN
1573-7128
D.O.I.
10.1007/s11138-009-0089-1
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Neoclassical welfare economics takes an outcome-oriented approach that uses Pareto optimality as its benchmark for welfare maximization. When one looks at the remarkable improvements in economic welfare that have characterized market economies, most of those improvements in welfare have been due to economic progress that has introduced new and improved goods and services into the economy, and innovations in production methods that have brought costs down, leading to higher real incomes. Pareto optimality is only peripherally related to actual economic welfare, and no economist would argue that people are materially better off today than a century ago because the economy is closer to Pareto optimality. After analyzing the actual factors that lead to improvements in welfare, this paper suggests a reformulation of the foundations of welfare economics to replace the almost irrelevant outcome-oriented concept of Pareto optimality as the benchmark for evaluating welfare with a process-oriented benchmark based on factors that generate economic progress. The paper then explores some implications of this reformulation.

Journal

The Review of Austrian EconomicsSpringer Journals

Published: Jul 8, 2009

References

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