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date: 18 January 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter provides an introduction to the use of social welfare functions in welfare economics and social choice theory for the comparative evaluation of social alternatives. With a social welfare function, social preferences depend on individual well-beings. These well-beings are expressed in terms of either preferences or utilities. Three main approaches are considered: Bergson-Samuelson social welfare functions, Arrovian social welfare functions, and Sen’s social welfare functionals. How the measurability and comparability of utility can be modeled and how limitations on the types of utility comparisons that are possible restrict the kinds of social welfare functions that can be considered is also discussed. Extensive social choice theory is used to deal with heterogeneous opinions about how to make utility comparisons.

Keywords: Arrovian social welfare function, Bergson-Samuelson social welfare function, social welfare functional

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