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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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1081 news items

Huffington Post

Huffington Post
Mon, 09 Feb 2015 11:19:48 -0800

It's important to stress that compassionate conservation is more than "welfarism gone wild" and that it is not an "animal rights" position per se. The terrain in which compassionate conservationists work is challenging, and calls for solutions that ...


Mon, 09 Feb 2015 22:45:00 -0800

Arvind Kejriwal and his Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) eviscerated the competition for a historic result in Delhi today, delivering the first major blow to Prime Minister Narendra Modi since his own spectacular election last year. The BJP, which was pushed into ...


Thu, 26 Feb 2015 23:14:43 -0800

And food security, which is another limit-defining clause (to do with the acquisition of multi-crop farm land) in the existing RFCTLA, is not merely about welfarism for the poor—in the context of climate change, it has strategic and national security ...

Huffington Post

Huffington Post
Mon, 23 Feb 2015 13:45:00 -0800

I also would expect NGS to follow the guidelines of compassionate conservation (please see "Compassionate Conservation: More than 'Welfarism Gone Wild'"), especially "First do no harm." I encourage you to write to National Geographic to let them know ...

Huffington Post

Huffington Post
Mon, 23 Feb 2015 12:26:15 -0800

The emerging field of compassionate conservation also argues against narrow anthropocentrism in conservation science (please see "Compassionate Conservation: More than 'Welfarism Gone Wild'" and a recent essay in BioScience called "Compassion as ...

The Guardian

The Guardian
Mon, 23 Feb 2015 09:48:45 -0800

It cannot be the case that any criticism of capitalism is received as leftwing Keynesian welfarism, and any public sector reform as an attack on the poor. This is precisely what the letter warns against, and it is a dismal reality of our public ...


Mon, 23 Feb 2015 18:32:19 -0800

But it won't be cut so much that the welfarism is reduced. More sops will be actually added! The real action on the reforms front, involving billions in foreign investment, will simply be outside the budget. Budget provisions will lay out the markers ...

Breitbart News

Breitbart News
Fri, 21 Nov 2014 09:46:41 -0800

The Pope also noted that the economic and social crises can produce fear and disorientation, leading us to think that the situation is so heavy we cannot do anything, instead of taking the initiative. “Taking the initiative means overcoming welfarism ...

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