Value Commitment, Resolute Choice, and the Normative Foundations of Behavioural Welfare Economics

Journal of Applied Philosophy 37 (4):562-577 (2020)
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Given the endowment effect, the role of attention in decision-making, and the framing effect, most behavioral economists agree that it would be a mistake to accept the satisfaction of revealed preferences as the normative criterion of choice. Some have suggested that what makes agents better off is not the satisfaction of revealed preferences, but ‘true’ preferences, which may not always be observed through choice. While such preferences may appear to be an improvement over revealed preferences, some philosophers of economics have argued that they face insurmountable epistemological, normative, and methodological challenges. This article introduces a new kind of true preference – values-based preferences – that blunts these challenges. Agents express values-based preferences when they choose in a manner that is compatible with a consumption plan grounded in a value commitment that is normative, affective, and stable for the agent who has one. Agents who choose according to their plans are resolute choosers. My claim is that while values-based preferences do not apply to every choice situation, this kind of preference provides a rigorous way for thinking about classic choice situations that have long interested behavioral economists and philosophers of economics, such as ‘Joe-in-the-cafeteria.’
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First archival date: 2020-01-27
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