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Negative Externalities and Sen's Liberalism Theorem

Donald G. Saari and Anne Petron
Economic Theory
Vol. 28, No. 2 (Jun., 2006), pp. 265-281
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25056072
Page Count: 17
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Negative Externalities and Sen's Liberalism Theorem
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Abstract

Sen's seminal, negative theorem about minimal liberalism has had a profound effect on economics, philosophy, and the social sciences. To address concerns raised by his result, we show how Sen's assumptions must be modified to obtain positive conclusions; e.g., one resolution allows an agent to be decisive only if his choice does not impose "strong negative externalities" on others. We also uncover a significantly different interpretation of Sen's societal cycles: rather than describing the rights of individuals to choose, the cycles identify when these choices impose difficulties on others. Other ways to address Sen's difficulties come from game theory.

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