CSER Public Lecture: Matthew Adler "Measuring Social Welfare, with Priority for the Worse Off"

The Centre for the Study of Existential Risk is hosting a public lecture by Matthew Adler (Richard A. Horvitz Professor of Law and Professor of Economics, Philosophy and Public Policy at Duke University) on "Measuring Social Welfare, with Priority for the Worse Off” on May 23rd at 5.30pm in the Runcie Room, Faculty of Divinity.

In his lecture Professor Adler will be talking about the development and application of the social welfare function (SWF) framework for policy evaluation. The SWF is a powerful tool for evaluating governmental policies across a range of domains in light of human well-being, representing a major step beyond traditional cost-benefit analysis that currently dominates policy-assessment. While cost-benefit analysis quantifies well-being impacts in monetary terms, the SWF framework uses an interpersonally comparable well-being measure. In his lecture Professor Adler will talk about the use of Prioritarian SWFs, which represent a further development of this concept by giving extra weight to well-being changes affecting individuals at lower levels of well-being. The lecture will illustrate the SWF framework and its prioritarian development by discussing an important example of governmental policy intervention: reducing fatality risks.

Matthew Adler 

Matthew D. Adler is the Richard A. Horvitz Professor of Law and Professor of Economics, Philosophy and Public Policy at Duke University. He is an editor of the journal Economics and Philosophy. Adler’s scholarship is interdisciplinary, drawing from welfare economics, normative ethics, and legal theory. His current research agenda focuses on “prioritarianism”—a refinement to utilitarianism that gives extra weight (“priority”) to the worse off. He writes about the theoretical foundations of prioritarianism; its implementation as a policy analysis methodology, in the form of a “social welfare function” or cost-benefit analysis with distributional weights; and its application to a variety of policy domains, including climate change, risk regulation, and health policy. Adler is the author of numerous articles and several monographs, including New Foundations of Cost-Benefit Analysis (Harvard, 2006; co-authored with Eric Posner); Well-Being and Fair Distribution: Beyond Cost-Benefit Analysis (Oxford, 2012); and Measuring Social Welfare: An Introduction (Oxford, 2019). With Marc Fleurbaey, he edited the Oxford Handbook of Well-Being and Public Policy (2016). Along with Ole Norheim, he is the co-founder of the Prioritarianism in Practice Research Network, whose work has just appear in an edited volume, Prioritarianism in Practice (Cambridge University Press, 2022).

His lecture will be about Measuring Social Welfare, a systematic overview of the social-welfare-function framework, with particular reference to prioritarianism.

This public lecture was part of the Hauser-Raspe Lecture Series at the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk.

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