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  • Print publication year: 1987
  • Online publication date: December 2009



I am extremely grateful to the four distinguished commentators for their marvellously engaging and stimulating (as well as kind) remarks on my Tanner Lectures. They have raised a number of interesting and important issues, and in my reply I shall concentrate on only a few of them. I have chosen those points on which I may possibly have something to add to what has already been said by the commentators themselves.

I agree with most of the points made by John Muellbauer in his constructive and far-reaching rejoinder, especially his exploration of the influence of habits and psychology on living standards as well as his pointer to the fact that some approaches to ‘equivalence scales’ (especially that due to Rothbarth) reveal more about inequality within the household than other approaches do. I also agree that one can get help from the literature on index numbers and inequality measurement in exploring a metric for freedom. However, as he himself notes, there are problems with each of these approaches, and it is really hard to think of some method of precipitating a complete ordering of freedom (seen as a complete ordering of sets of achievable alternatives) on the basis of a complete ordering of particular achievements. One can certainly extend the ‘dominance partial ordering’, but there is a trade-off between completeness on the one hand and relevance on the other. I have tried to discuss this question in my Commodities and Capabilities, in which I have also tried to explore several other methods of extending the dominance partial ordering.

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Tanner Lectures in Human Values
  • Online ISBN: 9780511570742
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