Freedom and Social Choice: Notes in the Margin

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I comment on Amartya Sen's study of the relations between the analysis of freedom and the theory of social choice. Two of his themes are analysed with regard to their contribution to an analytic understanding of the issues. These are: (1) the multiple interpretations of the concept of ‘preferences’ as a foundation for the formal conceptualizations of social choice and freedom; and (2) some issues in the formalization of freedom as a value to be compared with outcomes. Under (2), I mainly point out some difficulties in the existing analyses and mildly support a ‘flexibility’ interpretation of freedom that I have advanced earlier. I conclude with some observations drawn from history and literature which complicate the value bien-pensant thinkers are prone to place on freedom.

(Published Online February 16 2006)