International Review of Economics

, Volume 65, Issue 2, pp 201–230 | Cite as

What are the ethics of welfare economics? And, are welfare economists utilitarians?

  • Edward R. Morey
Research Article


Four questions: (1) What is welfare economics? (2) Is it an ethical system?  (3) How do welfare economists differ from one another? And (4), how do they differ from other economic ethicists? Then utilitarianism is discussed. I was taught, and have inferred to others, that welfare economists are utilitarians. They are not. Welfare economics is an atypical form of welfare consequentialism: consequentialist in that whether an act or policy is right or wrong is a function of only its consequences—the adjective “welfare” because the only consequences that matter are the welfare (well-faring) consequences. Most welfare consequentialists are neither welfare economists nor utilitarians. And, most moral philosophers are not welfare consequentialists—neither are most normal folk.


Welfare economics Utilitarianism (Benthamite, act, rule, and preference) Welfare consequentialism (WC) Well-being (WB) Emotional WB Life-satisfaction WB Preferences Interests Impartiality Fairness Justice Loyalty Holiness Jeremy Bentham John Harsanyi Peter Singer 

JEL Classification

B13 B20 B410 D600 D63 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EconomicUniversity of ColoradoBoulderUSA

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