Choosing Expensive Tastes

15 Pages Posted: 7 Nov 2005

See all articles by Louis Kaplow

Louis Kaplow

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

Date Written: September 2005


Expensive tastes play an important role in contemporary theories of distributive justice. In particular, some suggest that individuals are not entitled to compensation for low well-being that is attributable to expensive tastes that the individuals have freely chosen. The origins of chosen expensive tastes have not been explored, but they should be. First, the reasons that individuals might choose them could bear on how moral analysis should take them into account. Second, the choice of expensive tastes is prima facie irrational, raising the question whether concern about individuals choosing expensive tastes is warranted in the first instance. This essay considers why, if ever, individuals might choose to develop or adopt what may appear to be expensive tastes, and it suggests that the normative implications of the answers may differ from those ordinarily associated with voluntary rational choice.

JEL Classification: D63

Suggested Citation

Kaplow, Louis, Choosing Expensive Tastes (September 2005). Harvard Law and Economics Discussion Paper No. 526, Available at SSRN: or

Louis Kaplow (Contact Author)

Harvard Law School ( email )

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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