Economics and Philosophy



Essay

THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF A PARETIAN REPUBLICAN? SOME COMMENTS ON PETTIT AND SEN


Christian List a1 1
a1 London School of Economics

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Abstract

Philip Pettit (2001) has suggested that there are parallels between his republican account of freedom and Amartya Sen's (1970) account of freedom as decisive preference. In this paper, I discuss these parallels from a social-choice-theoretic perspective. I sketch a formalization of republican freedom and argue that republican freedom is formally very similar to freedom as defined in Sen's “minimal liberalism” condition. In consequence, the republican account of freedom is vulnerable to a version of Sen's liberal paradox, an inconsistency between universal domain, freedom, and the weak Pareto principle. I argue that some standard escape routes from the liberal paradox – those via domain restriction – are not easily available to the republican. I suggest that republicans need to take seriously the challenge of the impossibility of a Paretian republican.



Footnotes

1 I am grateful to Luc Bovens, Geoffrey Brennan, Keith Dowding, Philip Pettit, and Wlodek Rabinowicz for very helpful comments and discussion.