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Intergenerational Ethics under Resource Constraints

  • Geir B. Asheim

When evaluating long-term policies, economists usually suggest to maximize the sum of discounted utilities. On the one hand, discounted utilitarianism was given a solid axiomatic foundation by Koopmans (Econometrica 1960). On the other hand, this criterion has questionable implications when applied to economic models with resource constraints. This raises the question: What ethical conditions for intergenerational distribution should and can be imposed? I use my discussion of such conditions to illuminate the conflict between equity and efficiency that has been a central theme in the axiomatic literature on intergenerational justice. Moreover, a guide to some recent contributions is presented.

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Article provided by Swiss Society of Economics and Statistics (SSES) in its journal Swiss Journal of Economics and Statistics.

Volume (Year): 141 (2005)
Issue (Month): III (September)
Pages: 313-330

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Handle: RePEc:ses:arsjes:2005-iii-1
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  1. Geir B. Asheim & Wolfgang Buchholz & John M. Hartwick & Tapan Mitra & Cees A. Withagen, 2005. "Constant Savings Rates and Quasi-Arithmetic Population Growth under Exhaustible Resource Constraints," CESifo Working Paper Series 1573, CESifo Group Munich.
  2. Basu, Kaushik & Mitra, Tapan, 2003. "Aggregating Infinite Utility Streams with Inter-generational Equity: The Impossibility of Being Paretian," Working Papers 03-03, Cornell University, Center for Analytic Economics.
  3. Heal, G., 1990. "The Optimal Use Of Exhaustible Resources," Papers fb-_90-10, Columbia - Graduate School of Business.
  4. R. M. Solow, 1973. "Intergenerational Equity and Exhaustable Resources," Working papers 103, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  5. 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.
  6. Asheim, G.B. & Buchholz, W. & Tungodden, B., 1999. "Justifying Sustainability," Papers 5/99, Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration-.
  7. Atkinson, Anthony B, 2001. "The Strange Disappearance of Welfare Economics," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 54(2-3), pages 193-206.
  8. Chichilnisky, Graciela, 1995. "An axiomatic approach to sustainable development," MPRA Paper 8609, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  9. Tjalling C. Koopmans, 1959. "Stationary Ordinal Utility and Impatience," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 81, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  10. Hartwick, John M, 1977. "Intergenerational Equity and the Investing of Rents from Exhaustible Resources," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 67(5), pages 972-74, December.
  11. Geir Asheim & Bertil Tungodden, 2004. "Resolving distributional conflicts between generations," Economic Theory, Springer, vol. 24(1), pages 221-230, 07.
  12. Bossert, Walter & Sprumont, Yves & Suzumura, Kotaro, 2007. "Ordering infinite utility streams," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 135(1), pages 579-589, July.
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