Interdependent preferences and policy stances in mainstream economics
Keywords:interdependent preferences, extended utility function, neoclassical economics, Pareto efficiency, welfare analysis, policy recommendations
An individual's preferences are interdependent when they can be influenced by the behaviour of other agents. This paper analyzes the internal dynamics of an approach in contemporary economics allowing for interdependent preferences, the extended utility approach (EUA), which presents itself as a mild reform of neoclassical economics. I contend that this approach succeeds in broadening the policy perspectives of mainstream economics by challenging neoclassical policy stances. However, this success comes with a limitation: the EUA is unable to supply new consensual policy stances as alternatives to the challenged ones. The reason for this limitation is that the EUA opens the possibility of a wide variety of specifications for the utility function, and policy conclusions are sensitive to the details of these specifications.