A controversial issue in welfare economics
, interpersonal comparison
s of utility
are supposed to be avoided, according to common practice in 20th century
. The idea is that if economics is to live up to the ideal of being a science
, in the strict
fashion, then economists must accept that they cannot look inside someone's mind
to determine how much enjoyment they have.
In practice, this means one cannot say that a hungry leper is worse off than Bill Gates. Economists who wish to make normative judgments about economic systems or situations are therefore limited to such comparisons as Pareto efficiency.
This makes for great difficulties in Social Choice theory, which must either violate this dogma, or be extremely limited in constructing social welfare functions.