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Is the Veil of Ignorance Transparent?

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    Abstract

    Theories of justice in the spirit of Rawls and Harsanyi argue that fair-minded people should aspire to make choices for society as if in the original position, that is, behind a veil of ignorance that prevents them from knowing their own social positions. In this paper, we provide a fairly simple framework showing that preferences in front of the veil of ignorance (i.e., in face of everyday risky situations) can be entirely deduced from ethical preferences behind the veil. Moreover, by contrast with Kariv & Zame (2008), in many cases of interest, the converse is not true: Ethical decisions cannot be deduced from economic ones. This not only rehabilitates distributive theories of justice but even proves that standard decision theory in economic environments cannot be exonerated from ethical questioning.

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    File URL: ftp://mse.univ-paris1.fr/pub/mse/CES2011/11026.pdf
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    Paper provided by Université Panthéon-Sorbonne (Paris 1), Centre d'Economie de la Sorbonne in its series Documents de travail du Centre d'Economie de la Sorbonne with number 11026.

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    Length: 18 pages
    Date of creation: Apr 2011
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    Handle: RePEc:mse:cesdoc:11026

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    Keywords: Moral preferences; business ethics; social preferences; distributional justice; theory of justice; social choice; original position; veil of ignorance; utilitarianism; maximin principle; uncertainty.;

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