Pareto Principle and Competing Principles

11 Pages Posted: 12 Oct 2005

See all articles by Louis Kaplow

Louis Kaplow

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


The Pareto principle, the seemingly incontrovertible dictum that if all individuals prefer some regime to another then so should society, may conflict with competing principles. Arrow's impossibility theorem and Sen's liberal paradox are two notable examples. Subsequent work indicates more broadly that the Pareto principle conflicts with all non-welfarist principles. This essay surveys these results, including various extensions thereof, and offers perspectives on the conflict, drawing on classical and contemporary work in political economy and economic psychology.

JEL Classification: A13, D63, H43

Suggested Citation

Kaplow, Louis, Pareto Principle and Competing Principles. THE NEW PALGRAVE DICTIONARY OF ECONOMICS, Steven Durlauf, Lawrence Blume, eds., McMillan, 2006 ; Harvard Law and Economics Discussion Paper No. 519. Available at SSRN:

Louis Kaplow (Contact Author)

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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