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To Be or not To Be Involved:A Questionnaire-Experimental View on Harsanyi’sUtilitarian Ethics

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  • Yoram Amiel
  • Frank A Cowell
  • Wulf Gaertner

Abstract

According to standard theory founded on Harsanyi (1953, 1955) a social welfarefunction can be appropriately based on the individual's approach to choice underuncertainty. We investigate whether people really do rank distributions according tothe same principles irrespective of whether the comparison involves money payoffs ina risky situation or the distribution of income among persons. We use a questionnaireexperiment to focus on the two different interpretations of the Harsanyi approach.There are important, systematic differences that transcend the cultural background ofrespondents.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines, LSE in its series STICERD - Distributional Analysis Research Programme Papers with number 85.

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Date of creation: Jun 2006
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Handle: RePEc:cep:stidar:85

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Web page: http://sticerd.lse.ac.uk/_new/publications/default.asp

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Keywords: Impartial observer theorem; utilitarianism; welfare.;

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  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Rubinstein, A., 1999. "Experience from a Course in Game Theory: Pre and Post-Class Problem Sets as a Didactic Device," Papers 7-99, Tel Aviv.
  4. Yoram Amiel & Frank A Cowell & Wulf Gaertner, 2006. "To Be or not To Be Involved:A Questionnaire-Experimental View on Harsanyi’sUtilitarian Ethics," STICERD - Distributional Analysis Research Programme Papers 85, Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines, LSE.
  5. Michele Bernasconi, 2002. "How should income be divided? questionnaire evidence from the theory of “Impartial preferences”," Journal of Economics, Springer, vol. 9(1), pages 163-195, December.
  6. Stefan Traub & Christian Seidl & Ulrich Schmidt & M. Vittoria Levati, . "Friedman, Harsanyi, Rawls, Boulding - Or Somebody Else? An Experimental Investigation of Distributive Justice," Papers on Strategic Interaction 2003-19, Max Planck Institute of Economics, Strategic Interaction Group.
  7. 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.
  8. Wulf Gaertner & Lars Schwettmann, 2007. "Equity, Responsibility and the Cultural Dimension," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 74(296), pages 627-649, November.
  9. Yoram Amiel & Frank Cowell, 2000. "Attitudes towards risk and inequality : a questionnaire-experimental approach," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 2105, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  10. Harsanyi, John C, 1978. "Bayesian Decision Theory and Utilitarian Ethics," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 68(2), pages 223-28, May.
  11. Yoram Amiel & Frank A Cowell & Wulf Gaertner, 2007. "Distributional Orderings: An Approach with Seven Flavours," STICERD - Distributional Analysis Research Programme Papers 93, Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines, LSE.
  12. repec:ubc:bricol:90-03 is not listed on IDEAS
  13. Amiel,Yoram & Cowell,Frank, 1999. "Thinking about Inequality," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521466967.
  14. Smith, Adam, 1759. "The Theory of Moral Sentiments," History of Economic Thought Books, McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought, number smith1759.
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Cited by:
  1. Luca Corazzini, Lucio Esposito, Francesca Majorano., 2009. "Exploring the Absolutist Vs Relativist Perception of Poverty Using a Cross-Country Questionnaire Survey," ISLA Working Papers 32, ISLA, Centre for research on Latin American Studies and Transition Economies, Universita' Bocconi, Milano, Italy.
  2. Yoram Amiel & Frank Cowell & Wulf Gaertner, 2009. "To be or not to be involved: a questionnaire-experimental view on Harsanyi’s utilitarian ethics," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer, vol. 32(2), pages 299-316, February.
  3. Hörisch, Hannah, 2008. "Is the veil of ignorance only a concept about risk? An experiment," Discussion Paper Series of SFB/TR 15 Governance and the Efficiency of Economic Systems 230, Free University of Berlin, Humboldt University of Berlin, University of Bonn, University of Mannheim, University of Munich.
  4. Konow, James, 2008. "The Moral High Ground: An Experimental Study of Spectator Impartiality," MPRA Paper 18558, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  5. Lucio Esposito & Francesca Majorano, 2011. "What principles should inform poverty indices? Insights from a cross-country survey," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 41(2), pages 387-420, October.
  6. Liang, Che-Yuan, 2013. "Optimal Inequality behind the Veil of Ignorance," Working Paper Series 2013:7, Uppsala University, Department of Economics.
  7. Bleichrodt, Han & Rohde, Kirsten I.M. & Van Ourti, Tom, 2012. "An experimental test of the concentration index," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 31(1), pages 86-98.
  8. Luca Corazzini, Lucio Esposito, Francesca Majorano., 2010. "Reign in Hell or Serve in Heaven? A Cross-country Journey into the Relative vs Absolute Perceptions of Wellbeing," ISLA Working Papers 36, ISLA, Centre for research on Latin American Studies and Transition Economies, Universita' Bocconi, Milano, Italy.
  9. Yoram Amiel & Frank A Cowell & Wulf Gaertner, 2007. "Distributional Orderings: An Approach with Seven Flavours," STICERD - Distributional Analysis Research Programme Papers 93, Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines, LSE.
  10. James Konow, 2009. "Is fairness in the eye of the beholder? An impartial spectator analysis of justice," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer, vol. 33(1), pages 101-127, June.

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