Normative ethics and welfare economics are complementary: Philosophers can contribute to an understanding of the ethical foundations of economic policy evaluations and economists can employ data and models to help trace out the policy implications of ethical doctrines. This conference brought together these two communities by pairing papers by economists and philosophers on five themes: global justice, virtue ethics, freedom, meritocratic taxation, and equality of opportunity.
Normative Ethics and Welfare Economics
October 24–25, 2014
Steven Durlauf, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Ben Laurence, University of Chicago
Sankar Muthu, University of Chicago
Eric Posner, Kirkland & Ellis Distinguished Service Professor of Law, Arthur and Esther Kane Research Chair, University of Chicago Law School
Itai Sher, University of California, San Diego
Glen Weyl, Senior Researcher, Microsoft Research New England
Featured Media Playlist
Friday, October 24
Chair: Sankar Muthu
In this discussion, E. Glen Weyl analyzes global wealth transfers manifest in both transfer payments and migration, advancing an argument that addressing global inequality may bring with it vastly increased inequality within individual countries. Christian Barry argues the case for applying egalitarian principles of distributive justice at a global scale.
Chair: Ben Laurence
In this discussion, Itai Sher develops a formal approach to evaluating freedom in interactive settings, positing that freedom has an instrumental component–grounded in preferences–and an intrinsic component. Martin van Hees examines "the problem of many hands" and how voids between outcomes and those responsible for them relate to formal discussions of the nature of freedom.
Chair: Itai Sher
Stefanie Stantcheva presents work that proposes a new way to evaluate tax reforms, by aggregating losses and gains of different individuals using “generalized social marginal welfare weights.” Valerie Tiberius argues that there is a third way of understanding the relationship between virtues and well-being that takes well-being to be something fairly subjective and yet attributes value to virtues that is not merely instrumental.
Chair: Glen Weyl
Producing goods has benefits and burdens that need to be fairly distributed. But what makes a distribution fair? Kristi Olson explains. As part of that discussion, Matt Weinzierl explores the persistently popular "classical" logic of benefit-based taxation, in which an individual's benefit from public goods is tied to his or her income-earning ability, can be incorporated into modern optimal tax theory.
Saturday, October 25
Chair: Nathaniel Hendren
Richard Arneson discusses the duality of equality of opportunity being universally acclaimed, and yet thinly applied due to differing definitions over just what it constitutes. Sang Yoon Lee takes equality of opportunity definitions that have appeared in the philosophical literature on distributive justice, and applies it to a formal economic model which incorporates human capital investment and luck within and across generations.
Chair: Eric Posner