The KH criteria arose from the need for a practical measure that would allow economists to say something objective about the desirability of different projects. A number of ethical and technical criticisms have been leveled against the criteria. The weight of these has reached the point where the criteria lack moral authority (for example, see the 1980 issues of the Hofstra Law Review).

Chipman and Moore (1978, p. 548), in their useful survey of post-1939 welfare economics, conclude that 'judged in relation to its basic objective of enabling economists to make welfare prescriptions without having to make value judgments and, in particular interpersonal comparisons of utility, the New Welfare Economics must be considered a failure.' However, this failure was inevitable because the objective was impossible. The question remains: what objective is possible? To this question we now turn.

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