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Named after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, Pareto Optimal refers to a situation in which making somebody better off does not make anyone else worse off. Pareto optimality is essentially a state of equilibrium and does not address overall fairness. This is a key concept and limitation in Rawls' theory of justice, particularly in regard to the “difference principle.” Pareto Optimal is a stringent criterion in evaluation that may limit changes in programs, organizations, or policies.

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