IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this article or follow this journal

Intergenerational justice when future worlds are uncertain

  • Llavador, Humberto
  • Roemer, John E.
  • Silvestre, Joaquim

Let there be a positive (exogenous) probability that, at each date, the human species will disappear. We postulate an Ethical Observer (EO) who maximizes intertemporal welfare under this uncertainty, with expected-utility preferences. Various social welfare criteria entail alternative von Neumann Morgenstern utility functions for the EO: utilitarian, Rawlsian, and an extension of the latter that corrects for the size of population. Our analysis covers, first, a cake-eating economy (without production), where the utilitarian and Rawlsian recommend the same allocation. Second, a productive economy with education and capital, where it turns out that the recommendations of the two EOs are in general different. But when the utilitarian program diverges, then we prove it is optimal for the extended Rawlsian to ignore the uncertainty concerning the possible disappearance of the human species in the future. We conclude by discussing the implications for intergenerational welfare maximization in the presence of global warming.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.

Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Mathematical Economics.

Volume (Year): 46 (2010)
Issue (Month): 5 (September)
Pages: 728-761

in new window

Handle: RePEc:eee:mateco:v:46:y:2010:i:5:p:728-761
Contact details of provider: Web page:

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Humberto Llavador & John E. Roemer & Joaquim Silvestre, 2009. "A Dynamic Analysis of Human Welfare in a Warming Planet," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1673R, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  2. Basu, Kaushik & Mitra, Tapan, 2003. "Utilitarianism for Infinite Utility Streams: A New Welfare Criterion and Its Axiomatic Characterization," Working Papers 03-05, Cornell University, Center for Analytic Economics.
  3. Phelps, Edmund S & Riley, J G, 1978. "Rawlsian Growth: Dynamic Programming of Capital and Wealth for Intergeneration "Maximin" Justice," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 45(1), pages 103-20, February.
  4. Dasgupta, Partha, 1974. "On some alternative criteria for justice between generations," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 3(4), pages 405-423, November.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is featured on the following reading lists or Wikipedia pages:

  1. Economic Logic blog

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:mateco:v:46:y:2010:i:5:p:728-761. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Zhang, Lei)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.