Measurement scales and welfarist social choice

Journal of Mathematical Psychology 75:127-136 (2016)
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Abstract

The social welfare functional approach to social choice theory fails to distinguish a genuine change in individual well-beings from a merely representational change due to the use of different measurement scales. A generalization of the concept of a social welfare functional is introduced that explicitly takes account of the scales that are used to measure well-beings so as to distinguish between these two kinds of changes. This generalization of the standard theoretical framework results in a more satisfactory formulation of welfarism, the doctrine that social alternatives are evaluated and socially ranked solely in terms of the well-beings of the relevant individuals. This scale-dependent form of welfarism is axiomatized using this framework. The implications of this approach for characterizing classes of social welfare orderings are also considered.

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