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The Spaceship Problem Re-Examined

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  • Pierre-André Jouvet
  • Pierre Pestieau
  • Grégory Ponthière

Abstract

This paper re-examines the spaceship problem, i.e. the design of the optimal population under the environmental constraint of a fixed area available for life, by focusing on the dilemma between adding new beings and extending the life of existing beings. For that purpose, we characterize, under the assumption that individual lifetime welfare depends positively on the length of life but negatively on population density, the preference ordering of a utilitarian planner over lifetime-equal histories, i.e. pairs of initial population size and survival conditions yielding an equal number of life periods. It is shown that a Benthamite planner is not necessarily indifferent between lifetime-equal histories, and that a Millian utilitarian planner prefers lifetime-equal histories yielding the smallest population with the longest life. The solutions under Critical-level and Number-dampened utilitarianisms are also shown to differ significantly.

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File URL: http://economix.fr/pdf/dt/2008/WP_EcoX_2008-28.pdf
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by University of Paris West - Nanterre la Défense, EconomiX in its series EconomiX Working Papers with number 2008-28.

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Length: 17 pages
Date of creation: 2008
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:drm:wpaper:2008-28

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Keywords: environmental congestion; fertility; longevity; population ethics; utilitarianism;

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  1. Blackorby,Charles & Bossert,Walter & Donaldson,David J., 2005. "Population Issues in Social Choice Theory, Welfare Economics, and Ethics," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521825511, October.
  2. Blackorby, Charles & Donaldson, David, 1984. "Social criteria for evaluating population change," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 25(1-2), pages 13-33, November.
  3. Ng, Yew-Kwang, 1986. "Social criteria for evaluating population change: An alternative to the Blackorby-Donaldson criterion," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(3), pages 375-381, April.
  4. Antoine Bommier, 2006. "Uncertain Lifetime And Intertemporal Choice: Risk Aversion As A Rationale For Time Discounting," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 47(4), pages 1223-1246, November.
  5. Broome, John, 2006. "Weighing Lives," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199297702.
  6. Crisp, Roger, 2007. "Neutrality And Pleasure," Economics and Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 23(01), pages 81-88, March.
  7. Victoria Cramer & Svenn Torgersen & Einar Kringlen, 2004. "Quality of Life in a City: The Effect of Population Density," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 69(1), pages 103-116, October.
  8. Bykvist, Krister, 2007. "The Good, The Bad, And The Ethically Neutral," Economics and Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 23(01), pages 97-105, March.
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