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Measuring Social WelfareAn Introduction$
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Matthew D. Adler

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780190643027

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190643027.001.0001

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The Landscape of SWFs

The Landscape of SWFs

(p.83) 3 The Landscape of SWFs
Measuring Social Welfare

Matthew D. Adler

Oxford University Press

One key component of the SWF framework is a rule (the SWF) for ranking well-being vectors. This chapter presents the major such rules used by SWF scholars or suggested by the philosophical literature: the utilitarian SWF (which adds up well-being numbers); the continuous-prioritarian family of SWFs (which sums well-being numbers plugged into a strictly increasing and concave transformation function); the leximin SWF; the rank-weighted family of SWFs; and the sufficientist family. The chapter then discusses the key axioms that are used in the literature to categorize SWFs: the relatively uncontroversial axioms of Pareto Indifference, Strong Pareto, and Anonymity, and the more contested axioms of Pigou-Dalton, Separability, and Continuity. The landscape of Paretian, anonymous SWFs can be divided into various regions, depending upon these latter axioms; and the utilitarian, continuous-prioritarian, leximin, rank-weighted, and sufficientist SWFs can be placed within this landscape. Axioms for applying an SWF under uncertainty are also discussed.

Keywords:   social welfare function (SWF), utilitarian, prioritarian, sufficientism, leximin, rank-weighted SWF, Pareto, Pigou-Dalton, separability, uncertainty

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