Skip to main content

Inequality, new directions: full ethical foundation and consequences


Deriving comparisons and measures of inequality from full ethical foundations was a main innovation of the 1960s and pursuing it is still a most fruitful direction. This implies using “equal equivalents” and some principles particularly rich in meanings. Multidimensional inequalities can be measured and compared thanks to the “equal-equivalent manifolds”. The “equal-equivalent utility function” defines individual “welfare” cleaned of differences in sui generis individual tastes and hedonic capacities deemed irrelevant for “macrojustice”. Then, equal allocation is a deeper end-value than equal welfare but has to be complemented by free choice for freedom, Pareto efficiency and a demanded partial self-ownership. The result is the richly multi-meaning “equal-labour income equalization”.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


  1. 1.

    Atkinson, A.B.: On the measurement of inequality. J. Econ. Theory 2, 244–263 (1970)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    Bentham, J.: An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation. Reprint in The Utilitarians (1961). Delphin, New York (1789)

  3. 3.

    Bossert, W., Pfingsten, A.: Intermediate inequality: concepts, indices and welfare implications. Math. Soc. Sci. 19, 117–134 (1990)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    Bourguignon, F., Spadaro, A.: Tax-benefit revealed social preferences. Working paper 2008-37. PSE, Paris (2008)

  5. 5.

    Dasgupta, P., Sen, A., Starrett, D.: Notes on the measurement of inequality. J. Econ. Theory 6, 180–187 (1973)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Dworkin, R.: What is equality? Part I: equality of welfare; Part II: equality of resources. Philos. Public Aff. 10, 185–246; 283–345 (1981)

    Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Gamel, C., Lubrano, M. (eds.): On Kolm’s Theory of Macrojustice. Springer Verlag, Heidelberg (2010)

    Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    Guitton, H., Margolis, J. (eds.): Collected papers of the International Economic Association Conference on Public Economics (1966), Biarritz. Economie Publique (1968), Paris, CNRS. Public Economics, London, Macmillan (1969)

  9. 9.

    Hicks, J.: Essays in World Economy. Blackwell, Oxford (1959)

    Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Kolm, S.-Ch.: Les Choix Financiers et Monétaires (Théories et Techniques Modernes). Dunod, Paris (1966)

    Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Kolm, S.-Ch.: The optimal production of social justice. In: Guitton, H., Margolis, J. (eds.) Collected Papers of the International Economic Association Conference on Public Economics (1966), Biarritz. Economie Publique (1968) (pp. 109–177), Paris, CNRS; Public Economics (1969) (pp. 145–200), London, Macmillan. Reprinted in Landmark Papers in General Equilibrium Theory, Social Choice and Welfare. The Foundations of 20th Century Economics, selected by K.J. Arrow and G. Debreu, Cheltenham, Edward Elgar, pp. 606–663 (2001)

  12. 12.

    Kolm, S.-Ch.: Justice et Equité (1971), reprinted (1972), Paris, CNRS. English translation, Justice and Equity. MIT Press, Cambridge MA (1997)

    Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    Kolm, S.-Ch.: Sur les conséquences économiques des principes de justice et de justice pratique. Rev. Econ. Politique 1, 80–107 (1974)

    Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    Kolm, S.-Ch.: Unequal inequalities: I. J. Econ. Theory 12, 416–442 (1976)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    Kolm, S.-Ch.: Unequal inequalities: II. J. Econ. Theory 13, 82–111 (1976)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. 16.

    Kolm, S.-Ch.: Multidimensional egalitarianism. Q. J. Econ. 91, 1–13 (1977)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. 17.

    Kolm, S.Ch.: Rational foundations of income inequality measurement. In: Silber, J. (ed.) Op Cit., pp. 19–100 (1999)

  18. 18.

    Kolm, S.-Ch.: Macrojustice, The Political Economy of Fairness. Cambridge University Press, New York (2004)

    Book  Google Scholar 

  19. 19.

    Kolm, S.-Ch.: Equal liberties and the resulting optimum distribution and taxation. In: Bishop, J., Zheng, B. (eds.) Inequality and Opportunity, pp. 1–36. Emerald, Bingley (2008)

  20. 20.

    Kolm, S.-Ch.: On real economic freedom. Soc. Choice Welf. 35, 351–375 (2010)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. 21.

    Kolm, S.-Ch.: Chapters 2, 3 and 12. In: Gamel, C. and Lubrano, M. (eds.) On Kolm’s Theory of Macrojustice. Springer, Heidelberg (2010)

    Google Scholar 

  22. 22.

    Kolm, S.: Equality. In: Badie, B., et al. (eds.) The International Encyclopaedia of Political Science. Sage (2011)

  23. 23.

    Mirrlees, J.: An exploration in the theory of optimum income taxation. Rev. Econ. Stud. 38, 175–208 (1971)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. 24.

    Musgrave, R.: Maximin, uncertainty, and the leisure trade-off. Q. J. Econ. 88, 625–632 (1974)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. 25.

    Pigou, A.: Wealth and Welfare. Macmillan, London (1912)

    Google Scholar 

  26. 26.

    Posner, R.: The Economic Analysis of Law, 2nd edn. Little Brown, Boston (1977)

    Google Scholar 

  27. 27.

    Posner, R.: The Economics of Justice. Harvard University Press, Cambridge (1981)

    Google Scholar 

  28. 28.

    Rawls, J.: A Theory of Justice (1971). Revised edition. Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA (1999)

    Google Scholar 

  29. 29.

    Rawls, J.: A reply to Alexander and Musgrave. Q. J. Econ. 88, 633–655 (1974)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. 30.

    Rawls, J.: Social unity and primary goods. In: Sen, A., Williams, B. (eds.) Utilitarianism and Beyond, pp. 159–185. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (1982)

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  31. 31.

    Silber, J. (ed.): Handbook of Income Inequality Measurement. Kluwer, Dordrecht (1999)

    Google Scholar 

  32. 32.

    Walzer, M.: Spheres of Justice. Blackwell, Oxford (1983)

    Google Scholar 

  33. 33.

    Weber, M.: Basic Concepts in Sociology. Citadel, New York (1962)

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Serge-Christophe Kolm.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Kolm, SC. Inequality, new directions: full ethical foundation and consequences. J Econ Inequal 9, 329–352 (2011).

Download citation


  • Inequality
  • Justice
  • Freedom