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Generalized Utilitarianism and Harsanyi's Impartial Observer Theorem

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  • Simon Grant
  • Atsushi Kajii
  • Ben Polak
  • Zvi Safra

Abstract

We provide an axiomatization of generalized utilitarian social welfare functions in the context of Harsanyi's impartial observer theorem. To do this, we reformulate Harsanyi's problem such that lotteries over identity (accidents of birth) and lotteries over outcomes (life chances) are independent. We show how to accommodate (first) Diamond's critique concerning fairness and (second) Pattanaik's critique concerning differing attitudes toward risk. In each case, we show what separates them from Harsanyi by showing what extra axioms return us to Harsanyi. Thus we provide two new axiomatizations of Harsanyi's utilitarianism.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Econometric Society in its journal Econometrica.

Volume (Year): 78 (2010)
Issue (Month): 6 (November)
Pages: 1939-1971

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Handle: RePEc:ecm:emetrp:v:78:y:2010:i:6:p:1939-1971

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References

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  1. P. Mongin., 1999. "The impartial observer theorem of social ethics," THEMA Working Papers 99-33, THEMA (THéorie Economique, Modélisation et Applications), Université de Cergy-Pontoise.
  2. Moulin,Hervi, 1991. "Axioms of Cooperative Decision Making," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521424585, October.
  3. Grant, Simon & Kajii, Atsushi & Polak, Ben, 1998. "Intrinsic Preference for Information," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 83(2), pages 233-259, December.
  4. Hammond, Peter J, 1981. "Ex-ante and Ex-post Welfare Optimality under Uncertainty," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 48(191), pages 235-50, August.
  5. Kreps, David M. & Porteus, Evan L., 1979. "Temporal von neumann-morgenstern and induced preferences," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 20(1), pages 81-109, February.
  6. John C. Harsanyi, 1955. "Cardinal Welfare, Individualistic Ethics, and Interpersonal Comparisons of Utility," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 63, pages 309.
  7. Myerson, Roger B, 1981. "Utilitarianism, Egalitarianism, and the Timing Effect in Social Choice Problems," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 49(4), pages 883-97, June.
  8. Peter A. Diamond, 1967. "Cardinal Welfare, Individualistic Ethics, and Interpersonal Comparison of Utility: Comment," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 75, pages 765.
  9. John C. Harsanyi, 1953. "Cardinal Utility in Welfare Economics and in the Theory of Risk-taking," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 61, pages 434.
  10. Broome, John, 1984. "Uncertainty and Fairness," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 94(375), pages 624-32, September.
  11. Sen, Amartya K, 1977. "On Weights and Measures: Informational Constraints in Social Welfare Analysis," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 45(7), pages 1539-72, October.
  12. Roberts, Kevin W S, 1980. "Possibility Theorems with Interpersonally Comparable Welfare Levels," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 47(2), pages 409-20, January.
  13. Karni, Edi & Safra, Zvi, 2000. "An extension of a theorem of von Neumann and Morgenstern with an application to social choice theory," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 34(3), pages 315-327, November.
  14. Edi Karni, 1996. "Social welfare functions and fairness," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer, vol. 13(4), pages 487-496.
  15. Edi Karni & Zvi Safra, 2002. "Individual Sense of Justice: A Utility Representation," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 70(1), pages 263-284, January.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Peter J. Hammond, 2013. "Extending the Original Position: Revisiting the Pattanaik Critique of Vickrey/Harsanyi Utilitarianism," Global COE Hi-Stat Discussion Paper Series gd12-298, Institute of Economic Research, Hitotsubashi University.
  2. BOMMIER, Antoine & ZUBER, Stéphane, 2009. "The Pareto principle of optimal inequality," CORE Discussion Papers 2009009, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
  3. Grant, Simon & Kajii, Atsushi & Polak, Ben & Safra, Zvi, 2012. "Equally-distributed equivalent utility, ex post egalitarianism and utilitarianism," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 147(4), pages 1545-1571.
  4. Stefan Trautmann, 2010. "Individual fairness in Harsanyi’s utilitarianism: operationalizing all-inclusive utility," Theory and Decision, Springer, vol. 68(4), pages 405-415, April.
  5. repec:hal:cesptp:halshs-00115722 is not listed on IDEAS
  6. Marc Fleurbaey & Stéphane Zuber, 2014. "Fair management of social risk," Documents de travail du Centre d'Economie de la Sorbonne 14016, Université Panthéon-Sorbonne (Paris 1), Centre d'Economie de la Sorbonne.
  7. repec:hal:cesptp:halshs-00177374 is not listed on IDEAS
  8. Thibault Gajdos & Feriel Kandil, 2008. "The ignorant observer," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer, vol. 31(2), pages 193-232, August.
  9. Fudenberg, Drew & Levine, David K., 2012. "Fairness, risk preferences and independence: Impossibility theorems," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 81(2), pages 606-612.
  10. Geir B. Asheim & Stéphane Zuber, 2014. "Probability Adjusted Rank-Discounted Utilitarianism," CESifo Working Paper Series 4728, CESifo Group Munich.
  11. repec:hal:journl:halshs-00177374 is not listed on IDEAS
  12. Adler, Matthew & Treich, Nicolas, 2014. "Consumption, Risk and Prioritarianism," TSE Working Papers 14-500, Toulouse School of Economics (TSE).
  13. Simon Grant & Atsushi Kajii & Ben Polak & Zvi Safra, 2012. "A generalized representation theorem for Harsanyi’s (‘impartial’) observer," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer, vol. 39(4), pages 833-846, October.

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