### Grant McDermott

Assistant Professor
Dept. of Economics
University of Oregon

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# Cardinal sins

The French statesman Charles Talleyrand famously lamented of the Bourbons: "They have learned nothing and forgotten nothing."

 Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-PérigordDiplomat. Fan of cravats.

For a modern (if less grandiose) parallel, we have this curious insistence by many Austrians that mainstream economists cling to a flawed concept of cardinal $$-$$ rather than ordinal $$-$$ utility.[*] To this, the mainstream economists respond: "Huh?"

UPDATE: More of the same here.
UPDATE 2: Daniel Kuehn gives us the in-depth treatment here.

[*] No doubt the eyes of my non-economist readers have already glazed over, but the difference between the two concepts is explained here. In brief, cardinal utility refers to a utility level that can be precisely measured and compared in common units. While useful for teaching purposes, needless to say this is pretty unrealistic; let alone measurable. (E.g. An ice-creams is 1.5 times as good as a chocolate bar, and 2.5 times better than a hamburger.) Ordinal utility, on the other hand, simply allows you to rank the utility that you get from these different goods. (My favourite foods in order of preference are: 1) ice-cream, 2) chocolate and 3) hamburgers.)