Interpersonal comparisons of utility: positive, normative or value-laden?

Journal of Economic Methodology 2 (2):239-258 (1995)
Abstract
The paper examines whether interpersonal comparisons of utility have to be interpreted as positive, normative or value-laden. It suggests first that recent arguments advanced by John Davis which appeal to the functional role of utility comparisons neither suffice to characterise utility comparisons as value-laden nor warrant the derivation of specific normative conclusions. An alternative approach is then developed which focuses on the extent to which value judgements are necessary in the course of making utility-comparisons. This approach is then applied to the notion of utility comparisons and to the concept of efficiency. It is argued that value-judgements do not provide a sufficient basis for deriving economic policy recommendations from interpersonal comparisons.
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