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Ethics, Economics, and PoliticsPrinciples of Public Policy$
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I. M. D. Little

Print publication date: 2002

Print ISBN-13: 9780199257041

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2004

DOI: 10.1093/0199257043.001.0001

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Welfare Economics

Welfare Economics

(p.19) 3 Welfare Economics
Ethics, Economics, and Politics

Ian Malcolm David Little

Oxford University Press

Welfare economics is that large part of economics that is concerned with the well‐being of groups of people and is therefore closely related to normative economics and economic policy. Theoretical welfare economics derives the necessary conditions for achieving a Pareto‐optimum in society, which is a situation such that it is impossible to make anyone better off without making someone else worse off. There are an infinite number of Pareto‐optima that can be compared only if given a measure of the value of different distributions of welfare. Applied welfare economics, also called cost‐benefit analysis, compares sub‐optimal situations to determine whether a move from one to the other would be an improvement, taking account of differences in distribution.

Keywords:   cost‐benefit analysis, distribution of welfare, Pareto‐optima, welfare

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