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June 18, 2010


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Patrick S. O'Donnell

I'm curious as to the reason for the title of the blog: does it suggest some commitment to or celebration of Pareto optimality or "efficiency"? Is it the Pareto of welfare economics or the Pareto of social choice theory? Is there any recognition of the issue captured in Sen's formulation of the Paretian Liberal Paradox--involving the attempt to integrate or reconcile the pursuit of individual rights with the goal of collective welfare)--or does it simply come down on the side of the latter? Again, just curious.

Lawrence Baxter

Hi Patrick,

Kim drew my attention to your question and I feel responsible for trying to explicate the name we chose! Your question is perfectly framed. A small group of us wrestled with trying to combine the idea of the tragedy of the commons and the objective of striking the most efficient balance--hence the name alludes to Pareto Efficiency and, of course, the tragedy of the commons. I could not find a decent quote from any of Pareto's writing; indeed as I dug deeper his apparent support for the rise of fascism in Italy began to scare me almost to the point of sending us off in search of some other combination! So we have settled at this stage for only the Aristotle quote. I hope you won't consider me to be cheating if I were to say that your phrase "the attempt to integrate or reconcile the pursuit of individual rights with the goal of collective welfare" captures the goal exactly, but that I would also like to respond to your question by answering "all of the above." I had dug around for a nice quote from Sen but obviously did not do so deeply enough and you inspire me to look at his recent book again.

Basically, it seems to me that we have all become a little too entrenched into polarized positions on regulation, whereas regulation and markets seem to me to be locked in a delicate and shifting embrace in which the enterprise of trying to protect the commons while improving welfare and pursuing individual rights at the same time deserves more conversation. I take your interest to be in that spirit.

Thank you for thinking so carefully about the name of the blog!

Best regards,

Lawrence Baxter

Lawrence Baxter


Thanks for the warm welcome--and don't you dare start calling us "common parrots."


Patrick S. O'Donnell

Thank you Lawrence, I appreciate the explanation...and of course the subject matter is timely and important. And all the best with the blog.

Patrick S. O'Donnell

I like "Welfare and Well-Being" as a possible blog title, as it denotes both the COMMON GOOD (as in welfare economics or simply social welfare, thus inclusive of but not limited to a Paretian metric) and the non-instrumentalist GOOD of INDIVIDUAL PERSONS (allowing for the notion of human rights, but other ideas as well, such as virtuous character or human flourishing), respectively, the implication being that these are inextricably related to each other, with causal arrows going in both directions.

Patrick S. O'Donnell

Fortuitously, Larry Solum's latest entry in his Legal Theory Lexicon addresses "Welfare, Well-Being, and Happiness":

Kim Krawiec

Thanks for these comments, Patrick (and Lawrence). Very interesting.

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