A Note on Introducing a 'Zero-Line' of Welfare as an Escape-Route from Arrow's Theorem

Since Sen's insightful analysis of Arrow's Impossibility Theorem (Sen, 1970/1979), Arrow's theorem is often interpreted as a consequence of the exclusion of interpersonal information from Arrow's framework. Interpersonal comparability of either welfare levels or welfare units is known to be sufficient for circumventing Arrow's impossibility result (e.g. Sen, 1970/1979, 1982; Roberts, 1980; d'Aspremont, 1985). But it is less well known whether one of these types of comparability is also necessary or whether Arrow's conditions can already be satisfied in much narrower informational frameworks. This note explores such a framework: the assumption of (ONC+0), ordinal measurability of welfare with the additional measurability of a 'zero-line', is shown to point towards new, albeit limited, escape-routes from Arrow's theorem. Some existence and classification results are established, using the condition that social orderings be transitive as well as the condition that social orderings be quasi-transitive.
Keywords Arrow's theorem  Welfare  Zero-line  Interpersonal comparisons
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Greg Fried (2010). Teaching Arrow's Theorem. Teaching Philosophy 33 (2):173-186.

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