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To be or not to be involved: a questionnaire-experimental view on Harsanyi’s utilitarian ethics

  • Yoram Amiel
  • Frank Cowell
  • Wulf Gaertner

    ()

According to standard theory founded on Harsanyi (1953, 1955) a social welfare function can be appropriately based on the individual’s approach to choice under uncertainty. We investigate whether people really do rank distributions according to the same principles irrespective of whether the comparison involves money payoffs in a risky situation or the distribution of income among persons. We use a questionnaire experiment to focus on the two different interpretations of the Harsanyi approach. There are important, systematic differences that transcend the cultural background of respondents.

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File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1007/s00355-008-0324-x
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Article provided by Springer in its journal Social Choice and Welfare.

Volume (Year): 32 (2009)
Issue (Month): 2 (February)
Pages: 299-316

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Handle: RePEc:spr:sochwe:v:32:y:2009:i:2:p:299-316
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  1. Yoram Amiel & Frank Cowell & Wulf Gaertner, 2012. "Distributional orderings: an approach with seven flavors," Theory and Decision, Springer, vol. 73(3), pages 381-399, September.
  2. Stefan Traub & Christian Seidl & Ulrich Schmidt & M. Vittoria Levati, . "Friedman, Harsanyi, Rawls, Boulding - Or Somebody Else? An Experimental Investigation of Distributive Justice," Papers on Strategic Interaction 2003-19, Max Planck Institute of Economics, Strategic Interaction Group.
  3. Mongin, P., 1999. "The Impartial Observer Theorem of Social Ethics," Papers 99-33, Paris X - Nanterre, U.F.R. de Sc. Ec. Gest. Maths Infor..
  4. A. Rubinstein, 1999. "Experience from a Course in Game Theory: Pre- and Post-class Problem Sets as a Didactic Device," Princeton Economic Theory Papers 00s4, Economics Department, Princeton University.
  5. Harsanyi, John C, 1978. "Bayesian Decision Theory and Utilitarian Ethics," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 68(2), pages 223-28, May.
  6. Michele Bernasconi, 2002. "How should income be divided? questionnaire evidence from the theory of “Impartial preferences”," Journal of Economics, Springer, vol. 9(1), pages 163-195, December.
  7. repec:ubc:bricol:90-03 is not listed on IDEAS
  8. John C. Harsanyi, 1955. "Cardinal Welfare, Individualistic Ethics, and Interpersonal Comparisons of Utility," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 63, pages 309.
  9. Yoram Amiel & Frank A Cowell & Wulf Gaertner, 2006. "To Be or not To Be Involved:A Questionnaire-Experimental View on Harsanyi’sUtilitarian Ethics," STICERD - Distributional Analysis Research Programme Papers 85, Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines, LSE.
  10. Yoram Amiel & Frank Cowell, 2000. "Attitudes towards risk and inequality : a questionnaire-experimental approach," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 2105, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  11. Wulf Gaertner & Lars Schwettmann, 2007. "Equity, Responsibility and the Cultural Dimension," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 74(296), pages 627-649, November.
  12. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521466967 is not listed on IDEAS
  13. John C. Harsanyi, 1953. "Cardinal Utility in Welfare Economics and in the Theory of Risk-taking," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 61, pages 434.
  14. Smith, Adam, 1759. "The Theory of Moral Sentiments," History of Economic Thought Books, McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought, number smith1759.
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