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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

Catholic Herald Online
Tue, 19 Aug 2014 04:13:50 -0700

But it forms the cornerstone of Glasman's politics – and, he believes, will be at the foundation of any real attempt to move on from what he describes as “England's two failed dreams” of 1945 welfarism and 1979 Thatcherism. He stumbled across CST by ...
South China Morning Post (subscription)
Mon, 18 Aug 2014 13:19:48 -0700

The setback was followed by Beijing stalwart Chen Zuoer's attack on welfarism in Hong Kong in 1995 when he headed a mainland team scrutinising the city's budgets. Chen, who later became deputy director of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, ...

The Economist

The Economist
Thu, 14 Aug 2014 08:00:00 -0700

But even this is more symptom than cause of a societal recidivism in which economic change, the enfeebling crutch of welfarism and clinging to working-class tradition all play a part. “People around here, they'd give you their last penny if you needed ...


Wed, 13 Aug 2014 00:32:12 -0700

“The first human rights movements [in the '70s] unceremoniously dropped the economic and social rights that had been central to national welfarism; indeed, they dropped a commitment to social equality that went far beyond the low floor of protection ...
The Star Online
Fri, 15 Aug 2014 17:26:05 -0700

In recent years, fractious politics in America and elsewhere has raised the spectre that the form of democracy practiced there may lead to an unsustainable situation of increasing fiscal deficits through welfarism, because the government must always ...
Sun, 17 Aug 2014 13:34:42 -0700

Elizabeth Warren has shown no proclivity to putting any limits on welfarism, and given her political record, I believe she sees new immigrants as a source of political support exchanged for welfare benefits. 11. And we believe that corporations are not ...

Wall Street Journal

Wall Street Journal
Sun, 27 Jul 2014 14:23:48 -0700

Mr. Modi's thumping victory marks a turning point for India, the first time a message centered on growth has decisively trumped the warmed-over welfarism that helped the Congress Party dominate Indian politics for most of the past seven decades.

Wall Street Journal

Wall Street Journal
Mon, 04 Aug 2014 09:52:24 -0700

On the campaign trail, Mr. Modi benefited from the support of some of India's finest conservative and libertarian thinkers on economics and foreign policy. They helped create the image of a leader who would break from welfarism in economics and ...

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