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Justifying social discounting: The rank-discounted utilitarian approach

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  • Zuber, Stéphane
  • Asheim, Geir B.

Abstract

The discounted utilitarian criterion for infinite horizon social choice has been criticized for treating generations unequally. We propose an extended rank-discounted utilitarian (ERDU) criterion instead. The criterion amounts to discounted utilitarianism on non-decreasing streams, but it treats all generations impartially: discounting becomes the mere expression of intergenerational inequality aversion. We show that more inequality averse ERDU societies have higher social discount rates when future generations are better off. We apply the ERDU approach in two benchmark economic growth models and prove that it promotes sustainable policies that maximize discounted utilitarian welfare.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Economic Theory.

Volume (Year): 147 (2012)
Issue (Month): 4 ()
Pages: 1572-1601

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Handle: RePEc:eee:jetheo:v:147:y:2012:i:4:p:1572-1601

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Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/622869

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Keywords: Intergenerational equity; Social discounting; Discounted utilitarianism; Sustainability;

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