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Philosophical and ethical aspects of economic design

van Basshuysen, Philippe (2019) Philosophical and ethical aspects of economic design. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This thesis studies some philosophical and ethical issues that economic design raises. Chapter 1 gives an overview of economic design and argues that a crossfertilisation between philosophy and economic design is possible and insightful for both sides. Chapter 2 examines the implications of mechanism design for theories of rationality. I show that non-classical theories, such as constrained maximization and team reasoning, are at odds with the constraint of incentive compatibility. This poses a problem for non-classical theories, which proponents of these theories have not addressed to date. Chapter 3 proposes a general epistemology of economic engineering, which is motivated by a novel case study, viz. the reform of a matching market for medical practitioners. My account makes use of causal graphs to explain how models allow encoding counterfactual information about how market outcomes change if the design of the market changes. The second part of the thesis examines ethical issues. In Chapter 4, I apply tools from matching theory to gain insights into the distribution of refugees, such as among countries of the European Union. There is an ethical trade-off between the fairness of matchings and their efficiency, and I argue that in this context, fairness is the morally weightier criterion. Chapter 5 deals with the ethics of kidney exchange. Against critics, I give two arguments for the implementation of kidney exchange programmes. The first argument is that they are instrumental in meeting a moral obligation, namely to donate effectively. The second is that kidney exchange may increase the motivation for altruistic donations, because the donation of one kidney may trigger > 1 life savings. The final chapter identifies questions for future research and it closes with some thoughts about the future trajectory of economic design.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2019 Philippe van Basshuysen
Library of Congress subject classification: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BJ Ethics
J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
Sets: Departments > Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method
Supervisor: Bovens, Luc and Roberts, Bryan

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