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On the Natural and Economic Difficulties to Fulfilling the Human Right to Water Within a Neoclassical Economics Framework

Christopher Jeffords () and Farhed Shah

Review of Social Economy, 2013, vol. 71, issue 1, 65-92

Abstract: We present a neoclassical economic model of the human right to water using a nonrenewable resource model inclusive of a backstop technology. The right is interpreted as a minimum consumption requirement the government is obligated to fulfill in the event that any one household cannot do so independently. Differing by income levels, households maximize utility by purchasing a composite consumption good and water from two distinct, government-owned sources. Facing physical and financial constraints, the government uses fiscal policy to address potential human rights violations. Reducing the analysis to two periods, we develop a novel approach to compare total welfare levels from a joint human rights and neoclassical economics perspective. We define a human rights welfare standard and discuss cases in which traditional social welfare measures would exceed, violate, or meet this standard. We thus offer a unique way to merge economic analysis with human rights research.

Date: 2013
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DOI: 10.1080/00346764.2012.761753

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