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The Malleability of Undiscounted Utilitarianism as a Criterion of Intergenerational Justice

  • Geir B. Asheim
  • Wolfgang Buchholz

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.

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Article provided by London School of Economics and Political Science in its journal Economica.

Volume (Year): 70 (2003)
Issue (Month): 279 (08)
Pages: 405-422

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Handle: RePEc:bla:econom:v:70:y:2003:i:279:p:405-422
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  1. Weitzman, Martin L., 1998. "Why the Far-Distant Future Should Be Discounted at Its Lowest Possible Rate," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 36(3), pages 201-208, November.
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  12. Dasgupta, Swapan & Mitra, Tapan, 1983. "Intergenerational Equity and Efficient Allocation of Exhaustible Resources," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 24(1), pages 133-53, February.
  13. Mitra, Tapan, 1978. "Efficient growth with exhaustible resources in a neoclassical model," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 17(1), pages 114-129, February.
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