The Optimal Babel - An Economic Framework for the Analysis of Dynamic Language Rights

22 Pages Posted: 28 Feb 2010

See all articles by Bengt-Arne Wickström

Bengt-Arne Wickström

Research group "Economics and Language" - REAL; Andrássy-Universität Budapest

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: February 2010


We analyze various normatively determined distributions of language rights in multilingual settings. A general model for the analysis of language rights over time in a model with overlapping generations is set up. This model is then first used to find efficient allocations of rights in the tradition of Wicksell. It is shown that, when rights today influence the status of a language in the future, the “naïve” static analysis has to be augmented in favor of further-reaching minority rights in order to take into account the dynamic aspect. It is then demonstrated that a traditional welfare-economic analysis generally goes even further in the support of minority rights. If a possible externality on other communities is taken into account, however, these results are reversed in a pure efficiency analysis. If redistribution arguments are taken into account, this provides an effect in the opposite direction again.

Keywords: equivalence principle, minority rights, changeable preferences, dynamic preferences, welfare economics, overlapping generations

JEL Classification: D61, D62, D63, D69

Suggested Citation

Wickström, Bengt-Arne, The Optimal Babel - An Economic Framework for the Analysis of Dynamic Language Rights (February 2010). CESifo Working Paper Series No. 2956, Available at SSRN:

Bengt-Arne Wickström (Contact Author)

Research group "Economics and Language" - REAL ( email )

Research Group "Economics and Language"
Unter den Linden 6
Berlin, 10099

Andrássy-Universität Budapest ( email )

Pollack Mihály tér 3
Budapest, 1088

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