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Power, Luck and FreedomCollected essays$
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Keith Dowding

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781526107282

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9781526107282.001.0001

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The value of choice in public policy

The value of choice in public policy

(p.188) 10 The value of choice in public policy
Power, Luck and Freedom

Keith Dowding

Peter John

Manchester University Press

Conceptualizing and measuring choice is problematic both in theory and in practice. Measuring by counting the alternatives seems counterintuitive, as a smaller set of better or more diverse alternatives seems to provide more choice than one that is simply larger. However, concentrating upon better alternatives leads to choice being defined by welfare or utility, which is also counterintuitive. The chapter considers the implications of this paradox in relation to examples drawn from the choice agenda in British social policy. It examines the empirical difficulties in measuring welfare gains through implementing greater choice at a time of other central-led policy initiatives such as targets, and discusses the extant evidence. It suggests criteria for judging whether or not choice has been welfare-enhancing. It argues that ‘soft choice’, where service providers supply information and explain different options, is preferable to ‘hard’ choice involving simplistic targets to increase choice by box-ticking.

Keywords:   Choice, Freedom, Health care, Instrumental value, Intrinsic value, Markets, Opportunity set, Process utility

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