Measuring freedom of choice: an alternative view of a recent literature

Sebastiano Bavetta, Sebastiano Bavetta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


A recent literature has emerged in social choice theory which attributes intrinsic importance to freedom in the evaluation of states of affairs. The literature’s philosophical basis lies in Berlin’s notion of positive liberty. Accordingly, axiomatic measures of availability of choices are developed and the information they convey used for ranking states on the basis of the extent of liberty they offer to individuals.This paper argues that the literature’s contributions have taken Berlin’s analytical framework for granted exceedingly narrowing the philosophical terms of the debate. It is shown that, once freedom is analyzed from the perspective of an alternative structure, the triadic syntax of MacCallum, new normative content can be given to the literature and a more appropriate role can also be provided for its philosophical dimension.In particular, a correspondence between measures and conceptions of liberty is established on the basis of MacCallum’s framework and two conclusions are defended. The first is that the literature is concerned with the measurement of liberty, despite some contrary claims. The second that at least three alternative interpretations of freedom can be envisaged by the analysis of the literature’s contributions.Some brief, final considerations about the appropriateness of the liter- ature’s treatment of freedom are also made.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)29-48
Number of pages20
JournalSocial Choice and Welfare
Publication statusPublished - 2004

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Economics and Econometrics


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