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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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41 news items

The Guardian

The Guardian
Fri, 29 Aug 2014 06:00:28 -0700

... a dissection of What Went Wrong in Rotherham is quite long – racism, multiculturalism, Islamism, sexism, misogynism, neoliberalism, socialism, capitalism, statism, liberalism, libertarianism, colonialism, postcolonialism, feminism, welfarism, blah ...

The Guardian

The Guardian
Thu, 28 Aug 2014 22:00:31 -0700

If Ayn Rand had ever imagined a Britain that was not so sunk in welfarism it was beyond saving, she might have imagined Carswell as a kind of Howard Roark for Westminster, who will do politics only on his own terms. This is fine in the pages of a ...
Catholic Herald Online
Thu, 28 Aug 2014 04:03:45 -0700

He lambasts the welfarism of the Blair years. The system of income transfers that were devised by Gordon Brown were “well intentioned” but also devalued work. “Companies like McDonald's use the benefits system as a business model,” he says. “That's how ...
The Independent Singapore News (blog)
Fri, 29 Aug 2014 01:18:37 -0700

He is at the half-way mark of his prime ministership and the chances are that his move to shift Singapore away from a nothing-is-for-free country to one that is prepared to take some bold steps towards semi-welfarism will succeed. Until then, the ...

Daily Mail

Daily Mail
Fri, 22 Aug 2014 16:06:52 -0700

In electing to run down defence expenditure and capability after the crash of 2008, and to spend money instead on national and international welfarism, they simply chose to ignore the evidence. Militant Islam has grown as a threat over the past two ...
South China Morning Post (subscription)
Sat, 23 Aug 2014 12:45:59 -0700

That explains why he bemoans "welfarism" while wasting billions on dubious projects ill-managed by a civil service that is at the trough itself. (The financial sector faces much tougher insider dealing legislation than the rules applying to civil ...
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 ...
Sun, 24 Aug 2014 06:35:16 -0700

Oppositionism-being opposed to the ANC for the sake of it and not on the basis of any fundamental values, principles or policies-is what our country experiences from the EFF, COPE, the DA and others. All these parties support a mixed economy, welfarism ...

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