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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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File URL: http://sticerd.lse.ac.uk/dps/darp/DARP85.pdf
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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

Related research

Keywords: Impartial observer theorem; utilitarianism; welfare.;

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References

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  1. Mongin, Philippe, 2001. "The impartial observer theorem of social ethics," Economics and Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 17(02), pages 147-179, October.
  2. 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.
  3. Rubinstein, Ariel, 1999. "Experience from a Course in Game Theory: Pre- and Postclass Problem Sets as a Didactic Device," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 28(1), pages 155-170, July.
  4. Yoram Amiel & Frank Cowell & W Gaertner, 2006. "To be or not to be involved: a questionnaire-experimental view on Harsanyi's utilitarian ethics," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 2687, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  5. 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.
  6. Amiel,Yoram & Cowell,Frank, 1999. "Thinking about Inequality," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521466967, October.
  7. repec:ubc:bricol:90-03 is not listed on IDEAS
  8. 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.
  9. Yoram Amiel & Frank Cowell & Wulf Gaertner, 2012. "Distributional orderings: an approach with seven flavors," Theory and Decision, Springer, vol. 73(3), pages 381-399, September.
  10. 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.
  11. Smith, Adam, 1759. "The Theory of Moral Sentiments," History of Economic Thought Books, McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought, number smith1759.
  12. Harsanyi, John C, 1978. "Bayesian Decision Theory and Utilitarian Ethics," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 68(2), pages 223-28, May.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. 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.
  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. Yoram Amiel & Frank Cowell & Wulf Gaertner, 2012. "Distributional orderings: an approach with seven flavors," Theory and Decision, Springer, vol. 73(3), pages 381-399, September.
  4. Schildberg-Hörisch, Hannah, 2010. "Is the veil of ignorance only a concept about risk? An experiment," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(11-12), pages 1062-1066, December.
  5. Konow, James, 2008. "The Moral High Ground: An Experimental Study of Spectator Impartiality," MPRA Paper 18558, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  6. Corazzini, Luca & Esposito, Lucio & Majorano, Francesca, 2011. "Exploring the absolutist vs relativist perception of poverty using a cross-country questionnaire survey," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 32(2), pages 273-283, March.
  7. Corazzini, Luca & Esposito, Lucio & Majorano, Francesca, 2012. "Reign in hell or serve in heaven? A cross-country journey into the relative vs absolute perceptions of wellbeing," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 81(3), pages 715-730.
  8. Liang, Che-Yuan, 2013. "Optimal Inequality behind the Veil of Ignorance," Working Paper Series 2013:7, Uppsala University, Department of Economics.
  9. 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.
  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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