Though well-being is obviously important, other moral considerations, such as freedom, rights, equality, and justice, are also important. Some people risk their lives pursuing these values. Even if economists had no interest in any values except welfare, they would still need to understand these other values in order to comprehend the goals of policy makers and to help devise policies to achieve them.
In fact, we suspect that economists care as deeply about freedom and justice as do other people, even if these values are absent from their models. Adam Smith objected to most government interference in the market as diminishing welfare, but at the same time he maintained that to prevent people “from employing their stock and industry in the way that they judge most advantageous to themselves, is a manifest violation of the most sacred rights of mankind” (1776, book IV, chapter 7, part 2). Values such as freedom, rights, and justice may be difficult to understand, but welfare is not a simple notion either. In assessing economic outcomes, processes, institutions, and policies, normative economics should encompass a much wider range of moral concerns than welfare.
In Part III we shall be discussing important moral notions other than welfare, under the separate headings of liberty and rights (Chapter 10), equality (Chapter 11), and justice (Chapter 12). Although it is convenient to divide the discussion in this way, these considerations are closely related. For example, different theories of justice have implications for what liberties and rights are important and for the extent to which inequality should be viewed as a moral problem. Our way of classifying the issues is an expository convenience, and readers should not take it too seriously. Readers should also not consider our discussion of other important moral notions exhaustive. For example, the deepest moral commitments of many of those concerned to protect wilderness areas or of those concerned with community are not captured in these chapters. In these chapters, we also discuss three kinds of moral theories: libertarianism (Chapter 10), egalitarianism (Chapter 11), and contractualism (Chapter 12). It is natural to link libertarianism with liberty and rights, but liberty and rights are also important to nonlibertarians. It makes sense to discuss egalitarianism while discussing concepts of equality, but concepts of equality are important in theories of justice that are not egalitarian.