Yew-Kwang Ng

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Yew-Kwang Ng (Simplified Chinese: 黄有光; born 1942 in Malaysia) is a professor of economics at Nanyang Technological University. He has published in a variety of academic disciplines, and is best known for his work in welfare economics.

Education and academic career[edit]

Ng graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce from Nanyang University in 1966 and later a Ph.D. from Sydney University in 1971. He has been a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia since 1981. He held a chair as professor of economics at Monash University between 1985 and 2012 and is now an emeritus professor. As of 2018, Ng holds the Winsemius chair at the Department of Economics at Nanyang Technological University.[1][2]


Ng has written or co-authored more than 30 books and published more than two hundred refereed papers in economics and papers on biology, mathematics, philosophy, cosmology, psychology, and sociology.[1][3] He proposed welfare biology as an academic discipline.[4] His first academic paper was published when he was still an undergraduate student in the Journal of Political Economy.[5][6]


Ng is renowned for his work in welfare economics and a majority of his academic papers were written on this topic.[5] He wrote his first book on the topic in 1979, Welfare Economics: Introduction and Development of Basic Concepts.[7] Within welfare economics he is particularly known for his work on the theory of the third best, social choice theory and the economics of happiness.[5] In many publications he defends a view of utility as being both cardinally measurable and interpersonally comparable.[8]

Ng coined the term mesoeconomics and helped establish it as a simplified, tractable general-equilibrium analysis with both micro and macro elements.[9] As a method it is used to study the implications of imperfect competition on the macroeconomy. It has been argued that mesoeconomics "typically yields conclusions that are consistently more closely aligned with empirical evidence than any of the competing macroeconomic models."[5]

Ng contributed to the development of the new field of inframarginal economics, which "provides an analytical framework (...) to reconcile the focus of neoclassical economics on distribution with the preoccupations of classical economists (...) regarding the division of labour."[5] He collaborated with Xiaokai Yang on this topic and in 1993 they published the joint book Specialization and Economic Organization: A New Classical Microeconomic Framework, which was said to have "credibly challenged Neoclassical Economics".[5][10]

Moral philosophy[edit]

In moral philosophy, Ng advocates for the consequentialist position of hedonistic utilitarianism. He has defended this view in various academic papers, some of which were jointly written with the utilitarian moral philosopher Peter Singer.[11][12] He also argues for this position in his 2000 book Efficiency, Equality, and Public Policy.[13]

Awards and honours[edit]

Ng has received a number of awards in recognition of his work. In 2007 he was made a Distinguished Fellow of the Economic Society of Australia, the highest award that the Society bestows.[14] In the tribute associated with the award he was described as "one of Australia’s most important and best internationally known economists." [5] According to Economics Nobel Laureate Kenneth Arrow, Ng is "one of the leading economic theorists of his generation" and Nobel Laureate James Buchanan credited him to have "made major contributions in theoretical Welfare Economics."[5]

After Ng's retirement from Monash University, he was recognised as a "honorary and adjunct appointment" by the Department of Economics.[15]

Thanks to his early work on animal welfare, global catastrophic risks and the measurement of wellbeing, he is credited with originating many ideas that would later be incorporated into the philosophy of effective altruism.[16]

Select bibliography[edit]


  • 1982. "A Micro-Macroeconomic Analysis Based on a Representative Firm," Economica, N.S., 49(194), p p. 121-139.
  • 1984. "Quasi-Pareto Social Improvements," American Economic Review, 74(5), p p. 1033-1050.
  • 1990. "Welfarism and Utilitarianism: A Rehabilitation": Utilitas 2 (2): pp. 171–193. Abstract.
  • 1992. "Business Confidence and Depression Prevention: A Mesoeconomic Perspective," American Economic Review, 82(2), p p. 365-371.
  • 1995. "Towards Welfare Biology: Evolutionary Economics of Animal Consciousness and Suffering," Biology and Philosophy, 10(3), pp. 255–285. Abstract.
  • 1997. "A Case for Happiness, Cardinalism, and Interpersonal Comparability," Economic Journal, 107(445), p p. 1848-1858.
  • 1999. "Utility, informed preference, or happiness: Following Harsanyi's argument to its logical conclusion", Social Choice and Welfare, 16, pp. 197–216. Abstract.
  • 2001. "Welfare-reducing Growth Despite Individual and Government Optimization," Social Choice and Welfare, 18(3), pp. 497–506 with Siang Ng Abstract.
  • 2001. "Is Public Spending Good for You?," World Economics, 2(2), pp. 1–17, with Harold Bierman. Abstract.
  • 2003. "From Preference to Happiness: Towards a More Complete Welfare Economics, Social Choice and Welfare, 20(2), pp. 307-350. Abstract.
  • 2006. "Population Dynamics and Animal Welfare: Issues Raised by the Culling of Kangaroos in Puckapunyal," Social Choice and Welfare, 27(2), pp. 407–422, with Matthew Clarke.
  • 2007. "Eternal Coase and External Costs: A Case for Bilateral Taxation and Amenity Rights, European Journal of Political Economy, 23(3), pp. 641–659. Abstract.
  • 2011. "Happiness Is Absolute, Universal, Ultimate, Unidimensional, Cardinally Measurable and Interpersonally Comparable: A Basis for the Environmentally Responsible Happy Nation Index," Monash Economics Working Papers 16-11. Abstract.
  • 2011. "Consumption tradeoff vs. catastrophes avoidance: implications of some recent results in happiness studies on the economics of climate change," Climatic Change, 105: 109. Abstract.
  • 2016. "How welfare biology and common sense may help to reduce animal suffering," Animal Sentience, 7. Abstract.
  • 2016. "The Importance of Global Extinction in Climate Change Policy," Global Policy, 7(3), pp. 315–322. Abstract.


  • 1979 and 1983. Welfare Economics (London: Macmillan),
  • 1986. Mesoeconomics: A Micro-Macro Analysis (London: Wheatsheaf)
  • 1990. Social Welfare and Economic Policy (London: Wheatsheaf)
  • 1993. Specialization and Economic Organization (Amsterdam: North-Holland, with X. Yang)
  • 1994. The Unparalleled Mystery (Beijing: Writers Press). ISBN 7-5063-0695-6
  • 1998. Increasing Returns and Economic Analysis, ed. with Kenneth Arrow and X. Yang (London: Macmillan). Description & ch. previews.
  • 1999. Economics and Happiness (Collected papers in Chinese) (Taipei: Maw Chang)
  • 2000. Efficiency, Equality, and Public Policy: With a Case for Higher Public Spending (London: Macmillan)
  • 2011. Mistakes in Economics by the Public, Students, Economists and Nobel Laureates (New York: Nova Science Publishers)


  1. ^ a b Ng, Yew-Kwang. "Curriculum Vitae" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2018-07-28. Retrieved 2018-07-28.
  2. ^ Ng, Yew-Kwang. "Yew-Kwang Ng". Nanyang Technological University. Archived from the original on 2018-07-28. Retrieved 2018-07-28.
  3. ^ Ng, Yew-Kwang. "Publications". Nanyang Technological University. Archived from the original on 2018-07-28. Retrieved 2018-07-28.
  4. ^ Ng, Yew-Kwang (July 1995). "Towards welfare biology: Evolutionary economics of animal consciousness and suffering". Biology and Philosophy. 10 (3): 255–285. doi:10.1007/BF00852469.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h Corden; Forsyth; Tombazos (June 2008). "Tribute Distinguished Fellow of the Economic Society of Australia, 2007: Yew-Kwang Ng" (PDF). The Economic Record. 84 (265): 267–272. doi:10.1111/j.1475-4932.2008.00467.x.
  6. ^ Ng, Yew-Kwang (October 1965). "Why do People Buy Lottery Tickets? Choices Involving Risk and the Indivisibility of Expenditure". Journal of Political Economy. 73 (5): 530–535. doi:10.1086/259077. JSTOR 1829141.
  7. ^ Ng, Yew-Kwang (1979). Welfare Economics: Introduction and Development of Basic Concepts. London: Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 978-0333242964.
  8. ^ Ng, Yew-Kwang (November 1997). "A Case for Happiness, Cardinalism, and Interpersonal Comparability" (PDF). The Economic Journal. 107 (445): 1848–1858. doi:10.1111/j.1468-0297.1997.tb00087.x.
  9. ^ Ng, Yew-Kwang (1986). Mesoeconomics: A Micro - Macro Analysis. New York: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 978-0-312-53069-3.
  10. ^ Ng, Yew-Kwang; Yang, Xiaokai (1993). Specialization and Economic Organization: A New Classical Microeconomic Framework. Amsterdam: North Holland. ISBN 9781483296821.
  11. ^ Ng, Yew-Kwang; Singer, Peter (June 1981). "An Argument for Utilitarianism". Canadian Journal of Philosophy. 11 (2): 229–239. doi:10.1080/00455091.1981.10716302. JSTOR 40231194.
  12. ^ Ng, Yew-Kwang; Singer, Peter (June 1983). "Ng and Singer on Utilitarianism: A Reply". Canadian Journal of Philosophy. 13 (2): 241–242. doi:10.1080/00455091.1983.10716359. JSTOR 40231317.
  13. ^ Ng, Yew-Kwang (2000). Efficiency, Equality and Public Policy: With A Case for Higher Public Spending. London: Palgrave Macmillan. doi:10.1057/9780333992777. ISBN 978-1-349-39897-3.
  14. ^ "Distinguished Fellow Award". Retrieved 2018-07-28.
  15. ^ "Honorary and adjunct appointments". Monash Business School. Retrieved 2018-07-28.
  16. ^ "This visionary economist wrote up effective altruism's key insights decades ago. Here are his other ideas". 80,000 Hours. Retrieved 2018-07-27.

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