Extensive Measurement in Social Choice


Extensive measurement is the standard measurement-theoretic approach for constructing a ratio scale. It involves the comparison of objects that can be "concatenated" in an additively representable way. This paper studies the implications of extensively measurable welfare for social choice theory. We do this in two frameworks: an Arrovian framework with a fixed population and no interpersonal comparisons, and a generalized framework with variable populations and full interpersonal comparability. In each framework we use extensive measurement to introduce novel domain restrictions, independence conditions, and constraints on social evaluation. We prove a welfarism theorem for the resulting domains and characterize the social welfare functions that satisfy the axioms of extensive measurement at both the individual and social levels. The main results are simple axiomatizations of strong dictatorship in the Arrovian framework and classical utilitarianism in the generalized framework. We conclude by drawing some lessons regarding the utilitarian significance of Harsanyi's aggregation theorem.

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Jake Nebel
Princeton University


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