West, E.G.
July 1969
Southern Economic Journal;Jul69, Vol. 36 Issue 1, p52
Academic Journal
The definition of a country as a collection of individuals who seek to maximise their welfare is important and useful in the analysis of the economic consequences of emigration. Because several writers do not treat the problem at the constitutional level their subsequent analysis is, however, unduly hindered by familiar inhibitions concerning inter-personal comparisons of utility. If an emigrant leaves his fellows worse off the economist must be silent and can make no welfare judgements concerning the desirability of forbidding the 9 Professor Harry Johnson, Minerva, December 1967, pp. 111-12. emigrant's gain in utility for the sake of preserving that of the 'stayers'. Paretian welfare economics is concerned with changes where everybody gains in utility (or at least nobody loses). In this context this can be seen only in terms of near unanimous decisions to make changes in the constitution which constrain the terms of emigration, not for present emigrants, but for emigrants at a date in the future, by which time all concerned have had time to accommodate themselves to the new rules without personal losses in anticipated utility. The constitutional approach gives more generality to the analysis since it takes account of emigration from countries wherein fiscal (e.g., severely progressive tax) redistribution occurs. Emigration from such countries, like the unfolding incidence of progressive taxation upon particular individuals, need call for no further action where it is viewed as a normal 'insurance' event.


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