Primary Goods, Capabilities, . . . Or Well-Being?

28 Pages Posted: 20 Nov 2007 Last revised: 17 Mar 2008

See all articles by Louis Kaplow

Louis Kaplow

Harvard Law School; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Date Written: November 2007

Abstract

Theories of distributive justice and of the aggregate social good typically require a method of assessing each individual's situation. Among the common measures are primary goods, capabilities, and well-being. This article advances the argument that approaches that focus on the means of fulfillment, where the means are multi-dimensional, are subject to an objection if advanced as ideal normative theories. In general, it is possible to raise every individual's well-being by deviating from the dictates of means-based theories. This result is problematic not only on welfarist grounds but also if freedom, autonomy, or consent is regarded to be important. It is suggested that means-based theories nevertheless have appeal, but for instrumental, not intrinsic reasons.

JEL Classification: D63

Suggested Citation

Kaplow, Louis, Primary Goods, Capabilities, . . . Or Well-Being? (November 2007). Harvard Law and Economics Discussion Paper No. 602. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1031302 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1031302

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