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Private and Public Preferences

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 December 2008

Timur Kuran
University of Southern California


The theory of revealed preference, which lies at the core of the neoclassical economic method, asserts that people's preference orderings are revealed by their actions. This assertion has two possible meanings, of which one is a truism and the other false. When a person joins a riot against the government, he reveals through this action that he would rather riot than not. This is the sense in which the assertion is a truism. But if one means that the person must want a change of government, this is certainly false. His decision to riot could mean only that he considers it dangerous to stay on the sidelines.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1990

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