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Welfarism is a form of consequentialism. Like all forms of consequentialism, welfarism is based on the premise that actions, policies, and/or rules should be evaluated on the basis of their consequences. Welfarism is the view that the morally significant consequences are impacts on human (or animal) welfare. There are many different understandings of human welfare, but the term "welfarism" is usually associated with the economic conception of welfare.[citation needed] Economists usually think of individual welfare in terms of utility functions. Social welfare can be conceived as an aggregation of individual utilities or utility functions. Welfarism can be contrasted to other consequentialist theories, such as classical utilitarianism, which takes utility among agents as directly accessible and measurable.

Welfarist views have been especially influential in the law and economics movement.[citation needed] Steven Shavell and Louis Kaplow have argued in an influential book, Fairness versus Welfare that welfare should be the exclusive criteria by which legal analysts evaluate legal policy choices.[1]

Penal welfarism[edit]

Penal welfarism is a theory in the field of criminal justice, which holds that prisoners should have the right and the positive motivation to gain opportunities for advancement within the criminal justice system.[2]

Outcome utilitarianism, welfarism, and sum-ranking[edit]

Sen (1979) provides the following two definitions:

"Welfarism: The judgment of the relative goodness of alternative states of affairs must be based exclusively on, and taken as an increasing function of, the respective collections of individual utilities in these states."

"Sum-ranking: One collection of individual utilities is at least as good as another if and only if it has at least as large a sum total."

Sen makes the statement: "It is easily checked that welfarism and sum-ranking together are exactly equivalent to outcome utilitarianism." He then proceeds to criticize outcome utilitarianism by criticizing each of its two components: first sum-ranking, and then welfarism.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Louis Kaplow and Steven Shavell, Fairness versus Welfare (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press 2002) ISBN 0-674-00622-4
  2. ^ Garland - the crisis of penal modernism


  • Amartya Sen, 'Utilitarianism and Welfarism' in The Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 76, No. 9 pp. 463-489. 1979.

External links[edit]

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45 news items

The Guardian

The Guardian
Tue, 16 Sep 2014 12:03:54 -0700

That offer now seems to have been withdrawn, as he has decided that Salmond's SNP is “not talking about independence, but more welfarism, expensive greenery, etc and passing sovereignty to Brussels” and that it “must change course to prosper if he wins ...
Mon, 15 Sep 2014 10:37:30 -0700

His next tweet said: 'SNP not talking about independence, but more more welfarism, expensive greenery, etc and passing sovereignty to Brussels.' In this he appeared to attack the SNP's vision for an independent Scotland, particularly its commitment to ...

Sydney Morning Herald

Sydney Morning Herald
Mon, 15 Sep 2014 07:16:43 -0700

Early Monday morning Sydney time Murdoch tweeted: Scottish economy may or may not be ready for independence, but country is ready emotionally and politically. However ... SNP not talking about independence, but more welfarism, expensive greenery, ...

The Independent

The Independent
Sun, 14 Sep 2014 18:52:30 -0700

One read: “Have to worry about some of Salmond's allies. Far-left socialists and extreme greenies. Must change course to prosper if he wins.” He added later: “SNP not talking about independence, but more welfarism, expensive greenery, etc and passing ...

Osun Defender

Osun Defender
Sat, 13 Sep 2014 16:03:45 -0700

But as far as the APC is concerned, while our administration shares the ideal of welfarism, it is, however, an insult to reduce governance to doling out of hand-outs to people. The main opposition parties in the state, Peoples Democratic Party and ...
Thu, 04 Sep 2014 13:47:08 -0700

Is there anything left to say about the riots? Despite the avalanche of think-pieces chewing over possible causes – from the left: poverty, racism, a lack of opportunities; from the right: irresponsibility bred by welfarism and failures in state ...

iPolitics.ca (subscription)

iPolitics.ca (subscription)
Thu, 04 Sep 2014 18:00:02 -0700

Going down that road would open the federal Conservatives up to charges of corporate welfarism, without any guarantee of procurement success. Problem is, if you're going to talk the talk on defence, people will expect you to walk the walk. Statements ...

Spectator.co.uk (blog)

Spectator.co.uk (blog)
Sun, 07 Sep 2014 03:27:41 -0700

The chart below provides average scores (taken from multiple questions) for three typical measures: a welfarism scale (with higher scores implying support for a more interventionist state); a left-right scale (higher scores implying more right wing ...

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