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Value in Economics: Accentuate the Qualitative, but Don’t Eliminate the Quantitative

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Chapter Summary

As philosophers recognize, value is a multifaceted concept, which includes the narrow economic meaning of it, but is at the same time more expansive and inclusive. This chapter argues that economists have a tragically impoverished understanding of choice that ignores such factors as principles - and qualitative values - that may represent desire-independent reasons for choice, and which result in a much less clear, but at the same time much more valid, determination of value. It shows that the neglect of qualitative values in economic theory has serious implications for models of both individual decision-making and governmental policy-making. Furthermore, the effects on these two models are not separable, but rather compound each other: policymakers design laws and regulations using faulty models of choice, and then implement them regardless of violations of respect or dignity.

Keywords:economic theory; qualitative values

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