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The Malleability of Undiscounted Utilitarianism as a Criterion of Intergenerational Justice

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  • Geir B. Asheim
  • Wolfgang Buchholz

Abstract

Discounting future utilities is often justified by the ethically motivated objective of protecting earlier generations from the excessive saving that seems to be implied by undiscounted utilitarianism in productive economies. We question this justification of discounting by showing that undiscounted utilitarianism has sufficient malleability within important classes of technologies: any efficient and non-decreasing allocation can be the unique optimum according to an undiscounted utilitarian criterion for some choice of utility function. Copyright The London School of Economics and Political Science 2003.

Suggested Citation

  • Geir B. Asheim & Wolfgang Buchholz, 2003. "The Malleability of Undiscounted Utilitarianism as a Criterion of Intergenerational Justice," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 70(279), pages 405-422, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:econom:v:70:y:2003:i:279:p:405-422
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Mabrouk, Mohamed, 2006. "Allais-anonymity as an alternative to the discounted-sum criterion in the calculus of optimal growth I: Consensual optimality," MPRA Paper 10512, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Wolfgang Buchholz & Cornelia Ohl & Aneta Ufert, 2012. "Ökonomische Blickwinkel auf Gerechtigkeitsfragen am Beispiel des globalen Klimaschutzes," Discussion Paper Series RECAP15 001, RECAP15, European University Viadrina, Frankfurt (Oder).
    3. Zuber, Stéphane & Asheim, Geir B., 2012. "Justifying social discounting: The rank-discounted utilitarian approach," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 147(4), pages 1572-1601.
    4. Buchholz, Wolfgang & Schumacher, Jan, 2010. "Discounting and welfare analysis over time: Choosing the [eta]," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 26(3), pages 372-385, September.
    5. Cameron Hepburn & Greer Gosnell, 2014. "Evaluating impacts in the distant future: cost–benefit analysis, discounting and the alternatives," Chapters,in: Handbook of Sustainable Development, chapter 9, pages 140-159 Edward Elgar Publishing.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • Q32 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Nonrenewable Resources and Conservation - - - Exhaustible Resources and Economic Development

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