Welfare Theory, Public Action, and Ethical Values

Welfare Theory, Public Action, and Ethical Values


This new study of welfare economics challenges the accepted belief that welfare economics developed without taking ethical values into account. Whatever their theoretical commitments, when economists have considered practical problems related to public policies, they have – contrary to the standard reading of the history of welfare economics – adopted a wide range of ethical values including equality, justice, freedom and democracy.

Even leading authors on welfare economics, such as Marshall, Pigou, Pareto, Hicks, Samuelson, Coase and Musgrave, have adopted ethical positions other than those with which they are generally associated. Welfare Theory, Public Action, and Ethical Values, explores the reasons for and implications of this phenomenon, looking at the concepts of welfarism and non-welfarism as developed in modern welfare economics. The authors show how economic theory, public affairs and political philosophy interact to challenge conventional interpretations, and prompt economists and historians to take a fresh look at the nature and meaning of welfare economics.

Welfare Theory, Public Action, and Ethical Values: Revisiting the History of Welfare Economics
Edited by Roger E. Backhouse, University of Birmingham and Erasmus University, Rotterdam, Antoinette Baujard, Lyon University and Jean Monnet University, Saint-Etienne, Tamotsu Nishizawa, Teikyo University, Japan.
Published by Cambridge University Press, 2021.

Open access version of the book’s introduction and conclusion


Official link to the book and list of contents