An Evolutionary Efficiency Alternative to the Notion of Pareto Efficiency

Irene van Staveren


The paper argues that the notion of Pareto efficiency builds on two normative assumptions: the more general consequentialist norm of any efficiency criterion, and the strong no-harm principle of the prohibition of any redistribution during the economic process that hurts at least one person. These normative concerns lead to a constrained and static notion of efficiency in mainstream economics, ignoring dynamic efficiency gains from more equal allocations of resources. The paper argues that a weak no-harm principle instead provides an endogenous efficiency criterion, which shifts attention away from equilibrium analysis in hypothetically perfect markets towards an evolutionary analysis of efficiency in real-world, non-equilibrium markets. Moreover, such an evolutionary notion of efficiency would be less normative than the Paretian concept.

Published on 17th July, 2012, in Economic Thought Vol 1, No 1, 2012