Monday, July 18, 2016

"Welfare" in Conventional Economics

If we say there are books on economics, that sure is the truth. There are such books, indeed there are some of  these, and if we look at them we would find out more about what is being discussed. (This a rarer idea than you, the reader, might think it is.) So, I picked out this one book, you see. It is old. One term of discussion that I noticed was “the principle of welfare,” or “social welfare.” OK, then. But what does “welfare” mean, both back in 1928, and today? I would think that in general it might mean something like the overall good or good of the society (implies "whole society"). That would be a kind of basic idea t hat a person might have, and rather a broad idea. But instead what I find is that these writers think that it is a narrow idea, a “principle,” of welfare, which in practice means, “concept.” The concept is going to be used in the area of economics discourse, so one is subsumed to the other, and hence “welfare” becomes just a concept, and so, not much different from any other. Now the "welfare economist" need to slot it in. It has to be slotted in somewhere, within economics, which is to say within that discourse.  

     But let us suggest a much different way to look, which is to surmise that that in fact is economics itself is all about. So, that is different. Now we are seeing the same concept more broadly. There are two possible views that I can see in this regard. We can narrow it down to two, at least. One is that economics is for individuals, with no social welfare involved at all. This is a common enough idea that one encounters (and, in my opinion, wrong). The other idea would be what I already mentioned, that it involves, fundamentally, the whole society. If we were to hold these as two separate, distinct views we might be able to come up with some useful observation or analyses. But this kind of practice of slotting in something called "the principle of welfare," or this practice of making something called "social welfare" a separate concept just seems to be a part of the overall project of social oppression. This is the project these persons are always carrying out! Aren't they? Anyhow, there isn’t much of much interest here and this, naturally, is why we do not read so many of these books. We read the clever, new attempts at it (guys like Tyler Cowen).
     But it was gathering dust on the bookshelf, here at Roosevelt University. Hey, I thought I’d give it a try. I am curious like that. If “welfare” becomes a concept, then where to fit it in economics? This seemed to be the author's concern. This is the kind of thing they go around and around with. I observe that, f you are trying to do something that cannot be done, this may just preoccupy you for a really unlimited amount of time.
     Better to say that the social welfare is the purpose of economics—it is very basic. A person wants to be alive, so s/ he eats, or builds a tent. A whole society wants the same, so the society generates some kind of economic system. So, I would offer  that social welfare is a lot more closely related to economics itself than just being merely another concept, which we may endlessly screw around with, trying to fit the precision phrase ("social welfare" and "the principle of welfare" were phrases I memorized) into one’s intellectual plate, at university! When we take something as basic as the common good or the social welfare, should we just turn it into another ordinary concept? I think we surely end up with just a basket of particulars. This may then pre-occupy us, and for way too long. 
     And it is certainly not worth it to go back to the shelf. Nah... On a quest for the exact title/reference? (I won't bother, but I can say it is a rather oldish book, and it is HB 34 –something; because, it was next to another book, by Coates. But that's another story, now isn't it?).
     I do not think that is the best way for me to spend my time.

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