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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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46 news items

Evening Standard

Evening Standard
Wed, 30 Jul 2014 04:26:15 -0700

Friedman's dictum describes a combination of open borders and welfarism that is purely hypothetical. Whatever perceptions have hardened to the contrary, the UK has never had “free immigration”. In promising to build “a different sort of Britain — a ...
Huffington Post UK
Tue, 29 Jul 2014 08:43:21 -0700

According to David Boyle, independent reviewer of public services, people have been turned into clients of the state by welfarism. We, or they, have become a 'grateful, passive multitude' to whom things are done by the state, whether it is the benefits ...

Wall Street Journal

Wall Street Journal
Sun, 27 Jul 2014 14:23:53 -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.

Nigerian Observer

Nigerian Observer
Mon, 28 Jul 2014 00:23:56 -0700

Their enhanced remunerations and other factors of welfarism resulted in reasonable living standards which comfortably sustained them far beyond poverty lines. Their take-home pay took them home comfortably. They gladly thanked God and eulogised the ...

Nigerian Tribune

Nigerian Tribune
Sun, 27 Jul 2014 16:00:22 -0700

“We are honouring her because she has transformed the face of Lagos State judiciary in terms of welfarism. She has left a sound legacy for others to follow,” he said. With the graceful exit of Justice Phillips, all eyes are on her younger sister ...
Wed, 23 Jul 2014 18:18:45 -0700

Aturu's leadership was yet another reflective of his love for welfarism. The most conspicuous of all these perhaps was at the burial, two years ago, of my first cousin Olaitan Oyerinde at Ede, in Osun State. Mournful comrades had taken their turns to ...
Thu, 24 Jul 2014 17:03:53 -0700

Under Mandela's African National Congress, it has adopted multiculturalism, which subsumes an “American radicalism that aims at abolishing the nation-state and replacing it with a kind of global corporatism and welfarism,” to quote your work. South ...

The Straits Times

The Straits Times
Tue, 22 Jul 2014 05:12:18 -0700

Investing in private pension funds remains an option in future for CPF members who want to try and grow their savings, said Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam on Tuesday, July 22, 2014. -- PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES.

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