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Public Economics Programme Discussion Paper
The Tyranny Puzzle in Welfare Economics: An empirical investigation
Frank A Cowell, Marc Fleurbaey and Bertil Tungodden
May 2010
Paper No' PEP 05:
Full Paper (pdf)

JEL Classification: H20, H21.

Tags: keywords: social welfare; aggregation; questionnaire; income distribution

We address a puzzle in welfare economics – the possibility that rational people may be simultaneously against two apparently con‡icting forms of “tyranny.” In fact the two types of tyranny can be reconciled but at the possible cost of con‡ict with other standard welfare principles. We examine whether such con‡icts do arise using a questionnaire-experimental study. Our study shows that both tyrannies are rejected by a majority of the parti- cipants, and in many cases also pose a practical problem in moral reasoning