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Why Marginal Utility Can Never Be Negative

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Nowadays, there is no mainstream economics textbook that won’t dedicate entire pages, full with theory and applications, to the various formalized analyses of utility. “Objective functions” that can be wonderfully derived, mathematical algorithms that have an impeccable sequence, sophisticated graphics with or without inflection points and so on, all these make up an entire teaching arsenal which is attached with devotion by the economists-textbooks authors to the knowledge considered to be indispensable for a scientific analysis of utility. This is the methodological picture that “advanced” and “modern” economics textbooks use in order to convince their students that the utility theory is valid. They do this, on one hand by paying the price of mathematizing almost every row of economic theory and, on the other hand, by dimming economic realism and human beings with nirvana hypotheses from the model of “homo oeconomicus”.

These words are not written with the purpose of debating the avalanche of irrelevant hypotheses that characterize, with microscopic scientific exigency, the textbooks’ “consumer”. I am going to insist only on the “negative marginal utility” and on the blatant confusions regarding the “negative” deviation of marginal utility that we can easily find in economics textbooks.

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Cosmin Marinescu