A branch of economics concerned with discovering the principles for maximizing social welfare.
Heyday of Welfare Theories:
Founder of modern welfare economics
Based on Walrasian General Equilibrium
1906, Manual of Political Economy
Most famous contribution:
Maximum welfare = no change could make anyone better off without making someone worse off.
Optimal income/output distribution
Optimal technical efficiency
Optimal technical allocation of resources
Optimal output (Maximal output)
All agents have identical marginal rates of substitution between pairs of goods
Marginal rates of technical substitution between factors are equal
Marginal rates of substitution between each pair of goods = marginal rates of transformation
Does not really address distributive justice.
Analysis is static.
Marshall’s successor, master of neoclassical economics.
Chair of political economy at Cambridge from 1908 to 1943.
Takes a softer view toward a larger role government
1920, The Economics of Welfare
Makes case for income distribution
Theory of externalities
Saving is critical. Do not encourage people to consume.
Do not tax saving, property, or bequests.
Avoid progressive income tax.
Tax consumption (sales tax)
Macroeconomics of Keynes
Pigou effect (real balance effect)
Most mainstream economists, including
Keynes, thought his work was mostly flawed and confused.
Strong supporter of government intervention.
Argued that excessive saving, deficient demand, might result in macroeconomic recessions.
Solution is income redistribution.
1912, Theory of Money and Credit
1949, Human Action
1956, Theory and History
Distinguished Fellow of the AEA
Von Mises Institute at Auburn
Argues against socialism.
1937, On the Economic Theory of
Advocates “market socialism”
Shows that theoretically socialism can work
Von Hayek argues that the informational assumptions are prohibitive.
Market socialism is characterized by:
Private ownership of consumer goods and free choice of consumption from available goods (cons. choice)
Free choice of occupation
State ownership of the means of production
Markets for goods, services, and labor, but not for capital and intermediate goods
A central planning board sets the prices of capital goods by changing prices to eliminate shortages and surpluses.
Workers are paid a market wage plus a share of the social dividend (yield on capital and natural resources)
The central planning board instructs the managers of the state enterprises to act as if prices are constant, and follow two rules:
Combine resources so as to minimize the average cost of production by setting the MRTS equal.
Set MC=P to set output level.
Friedrich von Hayek and other neo-Austrians argued against Lange’s model in the face of the collapse of socialist economies around the world.
Their arguments were:
It has proved difficult to achieve efficiency in large economies through central planning. Achieving this requires much more information than is available to planners.
Lange’s Socialism does not give participants sufficient incentive to allocate resources efficiently or pursue opportunity.
The market economy handles these problems easily.
Graduated from Columbia, moved to Stanford.
Known for his ability in symbolic logic, mathematics, and statistics.
Dissertation, Social Choice and Individual
Evaluates various criteria of social welfare.
Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem: No majority voting scheme simultaneously respects the personal preferences of the voters, ensures maximum welfare, and does not depend upon the order that the issues are voted upon.
Four criteria for voting:
Social choices must accurately reflect the preferences of the individual voters;
Social choices must be transitive;
The group choice must not be dictated by anyone inside or outside the community;
A social preference made between two alternatives must depend only on preferences toward the two alternatives, and not on people’s opinions of other options.
Founder of public choice theory and constitutional economics (the economics of rules).
Middle Tennessee State and Chicago. Studied under Frank Knight.
Moved to University of Virginia, later to Virginia
Tech, and then to George Mason University.
Coauthered The Calculus of Consent: Logical
Foundations of Constitutional Democracy with
Gordon Tullock, 1962. Thought it was pretty obvious stuff.
The pursuit of self-interest leads to spontaneous order through exchange.
Question: If individuals seek self-interest in the market, why would we expect them to seek social interest in or through government?
Human nature is human nature. People seek out selfinterest no matter what the organization or arena.
The public sector is also driven by self-interest; moving a problem to the public sector does not avoid competition or self-interest. It simply changes the way self-interest is expressed or is manifested.
Some results of this:
Helps explain the collapse of communism.
Explains the deficit bias in industrial nations.
Explains logrolling—the exchange of votes among politicians.
Explains rent-seeking behavior.
Critique of conventional welfare economics:
Government officials are sometimes viewed as pursuing a social welfare function.
• Individual preferences are known only to individuals.
No one can discern a collective or social welfare function.
• Even if the social welfare function were known, the public sector could not be relied upon to pursue it.
The people in the public sector would be pursuing their own interests.
• There is “government failure” as well as “market failure.”
We need government to establish and enforce property rights rules, contracts, etc.
There is also a need for constitutional rules to constrain the state.
Supermajority rules, etc.