Is Individual Choice Less Problematic Than Collective Choice?

Economics and Philosophy 7 (02):143- (1991)
It is commonplace to suppose that the theory of individual rational choice is considerably less problematic than the theory of collective rational choice. In particular, it is often assumed by philosophers, economists, and other social scientists that an individual's choices among outcomes (or lotteries yielding specified probabilities of outcomes) accurately reflect that individual's underlying preferences or values. Further, it is now well known that if an individual's choices among outcomes (or lotteries thereof) satisfy certain plausible axioms of rationality or consistency, that individual's choice-behavior can be interpreted as maximizing expected utility on a utility scale that is unique up to a linear transformation (Ramsey, 1931; Savage, 1954; Von Neumann and Morgenstern, 1944). Hence, there is, in principle, an empirically respectable method of measuring individuals' values and a single unified schema for explaining their actions as value maximizing (insofar as they act rationally).
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DOI 10.1017/S0266267100001371
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