Discuss the cardinal utility theory. What are its drawbacks?

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The cardinal utility theory treats utility as something that can be measured in absolute terms.  We can measure a person and say the person is 1.7 meters tall.  So too, these theorists say, we can measure the utility a person gets from a good or service and say they get 1.7 utils, for example, from it.

This is in contrast to ordinal utility theory which simply says that a person gets more utility from good A than good B.

Cardinal utility is helpful for teaching about marginal utility and things like that.  However, it seems to me that it is quite impossible to measure utility in a cardinal way.  I can only talk about how much satsifaction I get from buying a book by comparing it to what I get from watching a movie.  I cannot put a number on the book without reference to other things.