Matthew Adler's book, Well-being and Fair Distribution: Beyond Cost-Benefit Analysis, is an extraordinary feat, providing a philosophical defense of social welfare functions as a framework for governmental policy analysis. The defense and design of his welfare consequentialist framework involves several theoretical and practical issues, a first set dealing with well-being: What determines an individual's well-being? Are there criteria for ranking well-being among different persons? How might policy analysts construct utility functions to represent individuals' welfare across a population? A second set of issues concerns how the social welfare function should rank potential outcomes using information about individuals' well-being. Adler defends a prioritarian social welfare function, which gives greater weight to changes in well-being for the worst-off. In so arguing, he claims that welfare consequentialism is compatible with a concern for fairness. Throughout this remarkable book, Adler draws upon welfare economics, social choice theory, philosophy, and other related fields. Four speakers will present commentary on different aspects of the book, to which Adler will respond.
Matthew D. Adler, Duke University School of Law
William A. Edmundson, Georgia State University College of Law
Thomas Ulen, University of Illinois College of Law
Peter Vallentyne, Florence G. Kline Professor of Philosophy, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO
Robin L. West, Georgetown University Law Center