Cover: Fairness versus Welfare, from Harvard University PressCover: Fairness versus Welfare in PAPERBACK

Fairness versus Welfare

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$68.50 • £54.95 • €61.50

ISBN 9780674023642

Publication Date: 09/01/2006


576 pages

6-3/8 x 10 inches


[Kaplow and Shavell] challenge [the] conventional wisdom. They argue that what matters most is whether a particular policy promotes the general welfare, saying ‘we discover very little basis for the use of notions of fairness as independent evaluative principles‘… Fairness versus Welfare is academically rigorous and intellectually challenging. Kaplow and Shavell have rolled a philosophical hand grenade into the practical world of policy.—Doug Bandow, The Washington Times

Fairness versus Welfare aspires to be the new manifesto for normative law and economics… This new brief for normative law and economics is, substantively, a genuine advance over the traditional commitment to wealth maximization.—Matthew Adler, Ethics

This is an extremely careful and complete analysis of issues relating to the proper norms for policy analysis. For those of us who use welfare economics in our analyses, this provides a well argued justification and a set of arguments we can use to defend our position. For those who do not, this book provides a serious challenge, and one which must be addressed.—Paul H. Rubin, Public Choice

Kaplow and Shavell…coauthored this interdisciplinary and systematic study that addresses the issue of what philosophical standards are preferable in the formulation and assessment of public policy, particularly a legal system… Their work aims to identify key normative moral principles that may defensibly be used to assess legal policy and rules. The book’s main thesis is that a welfare-based norm (how the overall well-being of individuals is effected) should be used both to justify the selection of legal rules and in normative legal analysis generally… The authors display a masterful command of the relevant scholarly literature… Highly recommended.—A. S. Rosenbaum, Choice

Normative economic analysis is dominated by the simple Pareto principle: what makes everyone better off should be preferred. The authors apply this principle to a great variety of policy issues and oppose it to considerations of fairness not derivable from individual well-being. They show in case after case that the welfare doctrine leads to superior and consistent implications. The book is a model of careful reasoning and illustrates the great value of a consistent viewpoint in evaluating public policy.—Kenneth J. Arrow

This is an extremely important book. It might have lasting influence on the law. If it did have such influence, people would be better off. It is an attempt to bring to bear on legal policy the perspective of welfare economics. It differs from most previous writing in the law-and-economics tradition, because it takes welfare economics as a normative theory, a criterion for evaluation, rather than a ‘positive’ or empirical theory of how the law actually works. Because it takes the theory as normative, it must defend the theory on philosophical grounds. It does this in a sophisticated way, drawing on modern utilitarian philosophy, and inventing, when needed, new philosophical arguments.—Jonathan Baron, University of Pennsylvania

This is an outstanding piece of analysis. Kaplow and Shavell have already established themselves as brilliant and imaginative scholars in the area of economic analysis of law. This work represents the systematic application of the principles of legal-economic thinking to the analysis of the basic policy justifications for legal rules.—Geoffrey Miller, New York University School of Law

Patient, thorough, unfailingly lucid, the authors take apart, brick by brick, the edifice of the dominant school of modern moral and legal philosophy with its insistence that social policy as well as personal decision making be based on notions of fairness, right, and justice distinct from utility or welfare. They show that human welfare is a far better criterion, and that philosophers’ (and many policy makers’) fairness notions, rather than simply lying along a different track from welfare, would if implemented diminish it. They seek to reinterpret fairness, in line with its social and psychological roots, as compatible with rather than contradicting welfare. Their close and compelling engagement with the arguments of their opponents makes this a book that philosophers as well as policy analysts will find difficult to refute and impossible to ignore.—Richard A. Posner

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