Notes on Effective Freedom

OPHI Working Papers

This paper presents an intuitive approach for comparing opportunity sets in freedom they offer. The decision maker faces a range of scenarios, here modeled as a collection of possible preference orderings over alternatives. One set is said to have greater effective freedom if, for each preference ordering, it contains an alternative that dominates all the alternatives in the second set. The properties of the effective freedom ranking are explored and various full and partial representations are presented. A key example is provided that shows how the effective freedom relation can rank sets even when the preference orderings strongly disagree with one another. Depending on the collection of preferences, the approach can generate the indirect utility ranking, for which unchosen alternatives have no value, or the Pattanaik and Xu (1990) cardinality ranking, in which every alternative has the same intrinsic value. 

Author: James E. Foster

Year: first published 1993, revised in March 2010

Citation: Foster, J. (1993, revised in 2010). 'Notes on effective freedom', OPHI Working Papers 34, Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI), University of Oxford.

freedom, individual choices, welfare, capabilities, axiomatic approach, orderings

James Foster
Series Name
OPHI Working Papers
Publication date
JEL Codes
D63, D03, Z13, I31
Publication Number
WP 34