What Ought to Count? Philosophical Reflections on Behavioral Welfare Economics
Behavioral welfare economics examines what revisions of standard welfare economics are necessary if we accommodate behavioral economics’ central insight that people’s preferences and choices often poorly serve their own welfare. Contributions thus far focused on the implications of various cognitive biases that systematically impair people’s judgment. My research focuses on what implications the existence of social preferences has for individual and social well-being.
A critical reconsideration of the normative presuppositions of welfare economics is sorely needed. In the wake of the financial crisis, the objectivity and neutrality of economics, and even its status as a (social) science, are openly called into question. Calls to go “Beyond GDP” as an appropriate measure for growth and prosperity are increasingly voiced, also from within economics, and they also increasingly resonate with policy makers. No doubt, these calls get a boost from widely shared concerns about ecological sustainability. But they also get an impetus from experimental research conducted in behavioral economics indicating that people have social preferences (roughly, that they care about what others get and do). This research project investigates what repercussions the existence of social preferences has for welfare economics.
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