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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 study 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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1032 news items

The Straits Times

The Straits Times
Mon, 31 Aug 2015 14:13:27 -0700

The welfarism trap weakens work incentive and hobbles the development of entrepreneurship. In his speech at the British Chamber of Commerce in Singapore in 2004, Mr Lee Kuan Yew said: "Cradle-to-grave welfarism blunted the ambition of many budding ...

The New Yorker

The New Yorker
Fri, 20 Nov 2015 11:00:15 -0800

“Socialism” is historically inaccurate, and using it to name Eisenhower-era welfarism may come at the cost of further burying its other, more radical meanings. But some of the term's appeal, as a name for Sanders's program, is that it sounds more ...

Bay Area Indymedia

Bay Area Indymedia
Thu, 26 Nov 2015 09:26:15 -0800

In practice, this suggests we should support big-tent animalist groups, that don't have an official position on new welfarism or abolitionism, let alone trigger warnings and Palestinian resistance. However, as the declaration states, "every rule has ...


Tue, 11 Aug 2015 02:30:35 -0700

Of course, the easy option for Labourites is to blame tabloid scare stories about benefits claimants for people's rejection of welfarism. But voters' views are really based on their lived, day-to-day experiences, not the journalism of the Daily Mail ...
The Hindu
Fri, 20 Nov 2015 11:18:45 -0800

In the past decade, Mr. Kumar has grown the constituency for his unique, and effective, type of governance, centred on social inclusion and welfarism. His return has been hard-won, and he cannot afford political instability or the prospect even of rent ...

Courier Mail

Courier Mail
Sun, 22 Nov 2015 04:22:30 -0800

The common assumption was Labor would be forced to shift even further to the left and thereby be sucked deeper into the green, swampy marshlands of extreme environmentalism, socialism, welfarism and anti-capitalism. Where else could they go?
The New American
Sun, 22 Nov 2015 12:01:38 -0800

Federic Bastiat's use of the term implies welfarism which public works and public safety have nothing to do with. I didn't claim the invention of the atomic bomb didn't happen through socialism. And who cares if socialism got us to the moon? How ...

The Guardian

The Guardian
Tue, 10 Nov 2015 23:30:32 -0800

His widow suspects his quest to have been motivated by the wish to return to life in the 1960s and 70s: “For Roger, it was about welfarism, and having a safety net, and above all … not being so weighed down by choice all the time, I suppose. He hated ...

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