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A Theory of Fairness and Social Welfare


Part of Econometric Society Monographs

  • Date Published: August 2011
  • availability: Available
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9780521887427

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About the Authors
  • The definition and measurement of social welfare have been a vexed issue for the past century. This book makes a constructive, easily applicable proposal and suggests how to evaluate the economic situation of a society in a way that gives priority to the worse-off and that respects each individual's preferences over his or her own consumption, work, leisure and so on. This approach resonates with the current concern to go 'beyond the GDP' in the measurement of social progress. Compared to technical studies in welfare economics, this book emphasizes constructive results rather than paradoxes and impossibilities, and shows how one can start from basic principles of efficiency and fairness and end up with concrete evaluations of policies. Compared to more philosophical treatments of social justice, this book is more precise about the definition of social welfare and reaches conclusions about concrete policies and institutions only after a rigorous derivation from clearly stated principles.

    • Proposes precise definitions of social welfare not in abstract but concretely, for distribution of commodities, production of public/private goods, and tax redistribution of income
    • Offers a way to think about social justice in economic models and make evaluations of concrete policies, rigorously based on basic principles of efficiency and fairness
    • Links three domains of economics which have remained separated so far: public economics, social choice theory and theory of fair allocation
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Fleurbaey and Maniquet are among the outstanding scholars in the development of formal theories of social choice and justice today. Their many original contributions and synthesis, in the present volume, are masterly and go well beyond what can be said in the usual philosophical language. The concepts of fair and efficient resource allocations have been enriched by their work.' Kenneth J. Arrow, Stanford University and Nobel Laureate in Economics

    'In this monograph Marc Fleurbaey and François Maniquet, two major representatives of a modern Franco-Belgian school of social choice, systematically set out a new approach to social choice based on concepts such as fairness and resource equality. It should interest not just economists and social choice theorists, but also philosophers who agree with the argument that social justice is a matter of allocating resources rather than subjective satisfaction or happiness.' Peter J. Hammond, University of Warwick

    'Theoretical attempts to aggregate individual preferences into a measure of social welfare have been plagued by negative results, including Arrow's famous theorem. Yet, in this important book, Fleurbaey and Maniquet show that an attractive theory of aggregation is possible if one relaxes Arrow's independence axiom in a natural way. The approach is rigorous yet conceptually simple enough to be usable in practice.' Eric S. Maskin, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton and Nobel Laureate in Economics

    'Fleurbaey and Maniquet's axiomatic synthesis of social welfare a la Arrow, and justice as equality of resources, is deeply original and entirely rigorous. Preserving the normative preeminence of efficiency and giving precedence to equal opportunity over informational parsimony, they construct a dazzling array of concrete allocation mechanisms, from income taxation to the fair division of indivisible commodities, and the provision of public goods. This brilliant book turns welfare economics into a powerful deconstruction of the social justice dilemmas.' Hervé Moulin, Rice University

    'Marc Fleurbaey and François Maniquet's book constitutes an outstanding contribution, suitable (and highly recommended) for the broad audience of mainstream economists and policy makers alike, and a 'must read' for those with a taste for normative economics. One can only wish that books like this one get published more often.' Journal of Economic Inequality

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    Product details

    • Date Published: August 2011
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9780521887427
    • length: 316 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 22 mm
    • weight: 0.64kg
    • contains: 89 b/w illus. 6 tables
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Part I. Basics:
    1. A contribution to welfare economics
    2. Efficiency versus equality
    3. Priority to the worst-off
    4. The informational basis of social orderings
    Part II. Distribution:
    5. Fair distribution of divisible goods: two approaches
    6. Specific domains
    7. Extensions
    Part III. Production:
    8. Public good
    9. Private good
    10. Unequal skills
    11. Income taxation

  • Instructors have used or reviewed this title for the following courses

    • Philosophy of social sicences
    • Seminar in Ethics
  • Authors

    Marc Fleurbaey, Université de Paris V
    Marc Fleurbaey is a Research Director of the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) and serves on the staff of CERSES, the joint research entity of the CNRS and the Université Paris Descartes. He first worked at INSEE, taught subsequently at the Universities of Cergy-Pontoise and Pau, and as of 2011 is a professor at Princeton University. Professor Fleurbaey is a research associate at CORE at the Université Catholique de Louvain, at Sciences-Po in Paris, and at IDEP in Marseilles, and a visiting professor at the London School of Economics. He is a former editor of the journal Economics and Philosophy (Cambridge University Press) and is currently a managing editor of Social Choice and Welfare. He is the author, editor or coeditor of seven books, including Fairness, Responsibility, and Welfare (2008) and Justice, Political Liberalism, and Utilitarianism: Themes from Harsanyi and Rawls (with Maurice Salles and John Weymark, Cambridge University Press, 2008). His papers on normative and public economics have appeared in leading journals such as Econometrica the Journal of Political Economy and the Journal of Economic Theory.

    François Maniquet, Université Catholique de Louvain, Belgium
    François Maniquet is Professor of Economics at CORE at the Université Catholique de Louvain, Belgium, and teaches part time at the University of Warwick, UK. He served as an FNRS research associate at the University of Namur, Belgium, until 2005. Professor Maniquet has been a visiting scholar at several research centers, including the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton in 2001–2. He was awarded the Social Choice and Welfare Prize in 2004, and he received the Koç Prize for the best paper in the Review of Economic Design that same year. Professor Maniquet has published papers on welfare economics, public economics, game theory and political economics in eminent journals such as Econometrica, the Review of Economic Studies, the Journal of Economic Theory and the American Journal of Political Science. He is currently one of the editors of the Cambridge University Press journal Economics and Philosophy. Professor Maniquet was recently awarded the Francqui Prize, the highest scientific distinction in Belgium.

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