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Inequality and fairness

  • Christopher Phelan
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    This study uses John Rawls' behind-the-veil of ignorance device as a fairness criterion to evaluate social policies and applies it to a contracting model in which the terms equality of opportunity and equality of result are well defined. The results suggest that fairness and inequality-even extreme inequality-are compatible. In a static world, when incentives must be provided, fairness implies equality of opportunity, but inequality of result. In a dynamic world of long-lived individuals, fairness implies not only inequality of result, but also, eventually, infinite inequality of result. If each period of the dynamic model is interpreted as a generation, then eventual infinite inequality holds for opportunity as well, as long as fairness is from the perspective of the first generation. If preferences of later generations are taken into account, then inequality of opportunity still occurs, although not at extreme levels.

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    Article provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis in its journal Quarterly Review.

    Volume (Year): (2002)
    Issue (Month): Spr ()
    Pages:

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    Handle: RePEc:fip:fedmqr:y:2002:i:spr:n:v.26no.2:x:1
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    1. Andrew Caplin & John Leahy, 2004. "The Social Discount Rate," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(6), pages 1257-1268, December.
    2. Phelan, C. & Townsend, R.M., 1990. "Computing Multiperiod, Information-Constrained Optima," University of Chicago - Economics Research Center 90-13, Chicago - Economics Research Center.
    3. Spear, Stephen E & Srivastava, Sanjay, 1987. "On Repeated Moral Hazard with Discounting," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 54(4), pages 599-617, October.
    4. Phelan, Christopher, 1994. "Incentives and Aggregate Shocks," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 61(4), pages 681-700, October.
    5. Atkeson, Andrew & Lucas, Robert E, Jr, 1992. "On Efficient Distribution with Private Information," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 59(3), pages 427-53, July.
    6. Rogerson, William P, 1985. "Repeated Moral Hazard," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 53(1), pages 69-76, January.
    7. Thomas, Jonathan & Worrall, Tim, 1990. "Income fluctuation and asymmetric information: An example of a repeated principal-agent problem," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 51(2), pages 367-390, August.
    8. Abreu, Dilip & Pearce, David & Stacchetti, Ennio, 1986. "Optimal cartel equilibria with imperfect monitoring," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 39(1), pages 251-269, June.
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