Theory and Decision

, Volume 1, Issue 1, pp 89–106 | Cite as

On the possibility of rational policy evaluation

  • Thomas Schwartz


Arrow proved the inconsistency of a set of reasonable looking conditions on a social decision rule. These conditions are stated and their rationale explained. It is argued that the blame for the inconsistency must lie with Arrow's Collective Rationality condition. Arrow's abstract problem is generalized and interpreted in terms of individual as well as collective decision-making. His conditions are revised so that (1) cardinal - even interpersonal - utility comparisons are allowed and (2) the Collective Rationality condition - which formulates the traditional conception of rational choice as maximizing choice - is weakened to its bare bones. The revised set of conditions is still inconsistent. Once again the culprit is the Collective Rationality condition, now drastically weakened: even the bare bones of Arrow's conception of rational choice as maximizing choice is untenable. An alternative conception is proposed.


Rationality Condition Decision Rule Rational Choice Policy Evaluation Alternative Conception 
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Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company 1970

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas Schwartz
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyStanford UniversityUSA

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