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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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72 news items

India Spend
Tue, 25 Mar 2014 05:22:30 -0700

Can India Afford Entitlement-Driven Welfarism: N K Singh. March 25, 2014. Most Read Most Popular Most Mailed. UP's Real Muslim Population Numbers · A Fact Check On Congress' Fact Check On Narendra Modi · Defence Spending Rises In An Uncertain ...

The Hindu

The Hindu
Wed, 26 Mar 2014 12:28:19 -0700

Going against the expectations of a promise to bring in caste-based reservation in private companies, the Congress manifesto signals a rightward shift in its ideology as it reaches out to “Modi vote banks” of business and middle classes. In a radical ...

The Guardian

The Guardian
Wed, 23 Apr 2014 19:01:12 -0700

All have evolved political systems that mix populism, personality cults and welfarism directed at specific communities which suit local conditions. Many people doubt these attributes could be exported elsewhere in such a varied nation. "There is a ...
Scoop.co.nz (press release)
Sun, 20 Apr 2014 20:42:41 -0700

... face to the media and the public”. The 2012 Judges' Report is more succinct: “…it has us by the balls and has continued to squeeze ever since. It is corporate welfarism, but somehow doesn't attract the same vindictiveness as the sickness beneficiary”.

Wall Street Journal

Wall Street Journal
Mon, 21 Apr 2014 16:15:00 -0700

A West that prefers debt-subsidized welfarism over economic growth will not offer much in the way of an attractive model for countries in a hurry to modernize. A West that consistently sacrifices efficiency on the altars of regulation, litigation and ...
Mon, 21 Apr 2014 16:01:20 -0700

At least no-one could accuse the doc of being inconsistent in his war against welfarism – he is also against free school meals for all children. Similarly, the SNP cupboard housing skeletons is also rather tight for space after Bill Walker's reputation ...


Mon, 07 Apr 2014 05:22:30 -0700

... its position of not allowing foreign investment in multi brand retail. One doesn't know whether the BJP will close down FDI led retail in States where they may come to power. The BJP's socio economic agenda looks like a curious mix of growth and ...
South China Morning Post
Sat, 19 Apr 2014 21:11:02 -0700

We adopt an obtuse, non-interventionist policy, as doing more is termed "welfarism" and dependence. Big business and tycoons uphold free markets and low taxes, making their fortunes by rent seeking. The crony-capitalism index in The Economist magazine ...

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