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Towards a critique of the concepts of solidarity and discrimination as applied in inter-temporal analyses of the so-called global problems

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  • Václav Klaus
  • Dušan Tříska
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    Abstract

    The authors' approach to the ethical and political aspects of inter-temporal interactions is the following: 1) Two representative agents Ra and Râ are analyzed and asymmetries in their wealth and voting powers are dealt with by a the text-book tool of a welfare function - its intra and inter-temporal application. 2) A generalized concept of a distance (measured in miles and years, respectively) is to indicate to what extend similarities and differences can be reasonably expected between Ra and Râ - their interests and values. With respect to a given distance, a discount factor then represents the weight that Ra ascribes to the well-being of his counter-party Râ. 3) In the intra-temporal case, the intuitive appeal of the concepts of solidarity, justice and discrimination is accepted, as well as the resultant transfers of wealth from the richer Ra" to his relatively poorer contemporary fellow Râ. 4) Contrariwise, the very concepts easily loose sense in the inter-temporal case. The arguments for this difference are that: (a) the same person may act as both Ra and Râ; the future Râ may be but a new sample of a given man, household, firm, nation … or even mankind itself, (b) wealth is likely to grow with the time-distance between the future Râ and the present decision maker Ra, (c) unlike the geographical distance, a time horizon is infinite; the future Râ may exist whenever - 10 days, 20 months or 17 000 years from now, (d) an interest rate or investment possibilities affect the present Ra's wealth or budget constraint. 5) With the level of aggregation of Ra and Râ, the analytical problems become still more eminent. Should then the two agents represent a mankind as a whole, it appears impossible to identify at what point of the future Râ lives - even if we managed to interpret the interests and preferences of us all today as Ra. A message is passed to natural scientists that they cross over to social analyses whenever they add valuations to their data - in a form of warnings not to mention regulatory proposals - and that as visitors they should respect the state of art of the contemporary social science, including its genuine advisory capacity, namely to globally established policy-makers. Hence, any regulatory constraint on our liberties and freedoms must be always viewed as an outcome of a political struggle - never then as a victory of a modern science, as the currently prevailing rhetoric may suggest.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by University of Economics, Prague in its journal Politická ekonomie.

    Volume (Year): 2007 (2007)
    Issue (Month): 6 ()
    Pages: 723-750

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    Handle: RePEc:prg:jnlpol:v:2007:y:2007:i:6:id:621:p:723-750

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    Related research

    Keywords: economics of global warming; solidarity; justice; discrimination; discount factor; welfare function; environmentalism;

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