Research Summary

Incommensurable Values and Rational Decision Making

by Nien-he Hsieh


Rational decision making is widely thought to require comparing alternatives with respect to a single measure of value. Accordingly, asking managers to consider values in addition to economic efficiency has been criticized on the grounds that doing so violates the requirements of rationality. In this more foundational area of his research, Professor Hsieh examines possible responses to this criticism. One response is to recognize that seemingly incomparable alternatives are in fact comparable. Another response is to reconsider the role that comparisons play in rational decision making. A third response is to acknowledge that what appear to be considerations of economic efficiency may in fact reflect other values instead, such as equality or fairness.