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Generalized Utilitarianism and Harsanyi's Partial 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

Paper provided by UCLA Department of Economics in its series Levine's Bibliography with number 321307000000000419.

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Date of creation: 22 Sep 2006
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Handle: RePEc:cla:levrem:321307000000000419

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  1. Philippe Mongin, 2005. "The Impartial Observer Theorem of Social Ethics," Public Economics, EconWPA 0510002, EconWPA.
  2. Roberts, Kevin W S, 1980. "Possibility Theorems with Interpersonally Comparable Welfare Levels," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 47(2), pages 409-20, January.
  3. Hammond, Peter J, 1981. "Ex-ante and Ex-post Welfare Optimality under Uncertainty," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 48(191), pages 235-50, August.
  4. Grant, S & Kajii, A & Polak, B, 1997. "Intrinsic Preference for Information," Papers, Australian National University - Department of Economics 323, Australian National University - Department of Economics.
  5. Sen, Amartya K, 1977. "On Weights and Measures: Informational Constraints in Social Welfare Analysis," Econometrica, Econometric Society, Econometric Society, vol. 45(7), pages 1539-72, October.
  6. Peter A. Diamond, 1967. "Cardinal Welfare, Individualistic Ethics, and Interpersonal Comparison of Utility: Comment," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, University of Chicago Press, vol. 75, pages 765.
  7. 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.
  8. John C. Harsanyi, 1953. "Cardinal Utility in Welfare Economics and in the Theory of Risk-taking," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, University of Chicago Press, vol. 61, pages 434.
  9. Broome, John, 1984. "Uncertainty and Fairness," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, Royal Economic Society, vol. 94(375), pages 624-32, September.
  10. Myerson, Roger B, 1981. "Utilitarianism, Egalitarianism, and the Timing Effect in Social Choice Problems," Econometrica, Econometric Society, Econometric Society, vol. 49(4), pages 883-97, June.
  11. Edi Karni, 1996. "Social welfare functions and fairness," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer, Springer, vol. 13(4), pages 487-496.
  12. Kreps, David M. & Porteus, Evan L., 1979. "Temporal von neumann-morgenstern and induced preferences," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 20(1), pages 81-109, February.
  13. John C. Harsanyi, 1955. "Cardinal Welfare, Individualistic Ethics, and Interpersonal Comparisons of Utility," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, University of Chicago Press, vol. 63, pages 309.
  14. Moulin,Hervi, 1991. "Axioms of Cooperative Decision Making," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521424585.
  15. Edi Karni & Zvi Safra, 2002. "Individual Sense of Justice: A Utility Representation," Econometrica, Econometric Society, Econometric Society, vol. 70(1), pages 263-284, January.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Thibault Gajdos & Feriel Kandil, 2008. "The ignorant observer," Université Paris1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (Post-Print and Working Papers) halshs-00177374, HAL.
  2. Grant, Simon & Kajii, Atsushi & Polak, Ben & Safra, Zvi, 2012. "Equally-distributed equivalent utility, ex post egalitarianism and utilitarianism," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 147(4), pages 1545-1571.
  3. BOMMIER, Antoine & ZUBER, Stéphane, 2009. "The Pareto principle of optimal inequality," CORE Discussion Papers, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE) 2009009, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
  4. Fudenberg, Drew & Lavine, David K., 2012. "Fairness, Risk Preferences and Independence: Impossibility Theorems," Scholarly Articles 11022184, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  5. Stefan Trautmann, 2010. "Individual fairness in Harsanyi’s utilitarianism: operationalizing all-inclusive utility," Theory and Decision, Springer, Springer, vol. 68(4), pages 405-415, April.
  6. Peter J. Hammond, 2013. "Extending the Original Position: Revisiting the Pattanaik Critique of Vickrey/Harsanyi Utilitarianism," Global COE Hi-Stat Discussion Paper Series, Institute of Economic Research, Hitotsubashi University gd12-298, Institute of Economic Research, Hitotsubashi University.
  7. Marc Fleurbaey & Stéphane Zuber, 2014. "Fair management of social risk," Documents de travail du Centre d'Economie de la Sorbonne, Université Panthéon-Sorbonne (Paris 1), Centre d'Economie de la Sorbonne 14016, Université Panthéon-Sorbonne (Paris 1), Centre d'Economie de la Sorbonne.
  8. Simon Grant & Atsushi Kajii & Ben Polak & Zvi Safra, 2012. "A generalized representation theorem for Harsanyi’s (‘impartial’) observer," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer, Springer, vol. 39(4), pages 833-846, October.
  9. Adler, Matthew & Treich, Nicolas, 2014. "Consumption, Risk and Prioritarianism," TSE Working Papers, Toulouse School of Economics (TSE) 14-500, Toulouse School of Economics (TSE).
  10. repec:hal:journl:halshs-00177374 is not listed on IDEAS
  11. Geir B. Asheim & Stéphane Zuber, 2014. "Probability Adjusted Rank-Discounted Utilitarianism," CESifo Working Paper Series 4728, CESifo Group Munich.

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