Pareto, Consent, and Respect for Dignity: A Kantian Perspective
Review of Social Economy, Vol. 67, No. 1, 2009
30 Pages Posted: 29 Sep 2008
Date Written: September 4, 2008
This paper argues that the Pareto standard, by which policy changes are approved if they benefit at least one person and harms no one, is ethically questionable despite its nearly universal acceptance among economists and philosophers alike. As usually implemented, the Pareto standard bypasses actual consent, relying instead on hypothetical consent based on imputed measures of preferences or well-being. By so circumventing actual choice, the Pareto standard violates the respect for the dignity of autonomous agents, as emphasized by Immanuel Kant. If actual consent is obtained, however, the independent relevance of the Pareto standard is endangered.
Keywords: Pareto improvement, preferences, consent, dignity, Immanuel Kant
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