Collected Papers of Kenneth J. Arrow, Volume 1: Social Choice and Justice

Kenneth J. Arrow

Book cover

This was literally a “moldy old tome.” It was one of several economics books that was severely water damaged when our apartment in Brooklyn sprang a leak during Hurricane Irene in 2011. Many of them were damaged beyond repair, but a couple, including this one, were mostly OK, aside from a little mold. Although I got rid of a ton of books when I moved to California, this is one of the ones I kept. After reading Marie Kondo’s book, I set myself a goal of reading the few books I still have that have been sitting unread for years, and this was the first one. (I’m sure I had already had it for years before Irene.)

It’s a collection of papers, and is not exactly ideal for reading cover to cover. I skimmed parts of it, in part because I didn’t really care to go through equations one by one, and in part because there is a fair amount of repetition (the first several essays are all more or less expositions of Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem). But, other parts were surprisingly readable. My favorite pieces were the ones on Rawls and Nozick, and actually, I think the main benefit I got out of this book was being reminded that I should read Rawls and Nozick! The most interesting topic for me was intergenerational justice, i.e., what a justice lens has to say about tradeoffs between consumption and investment. Arrow’s treatment here was very high-level, but enough to get me interested.

My Goodreads rating: 3 stars