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Escaping the repugnant conclusion: rank-discounted utilitarianism with variable population

Author

Listed:
  • Asheim, Geir B.

    () (Department of Economics, University of Oslo)

  • Zuber, Stéphane

    () (Paris School of Economics and CNRS, Centre d'Économie de la Sorbonne)

Abstract

We contribute to population ethics by proposing and axiomatizing rank-discounted critical-level generalized utilitarianism (RDCLU). Population ethics is needed for evaluation of policies, e.g., concerning climate change, where population size depends on the chosen policy. We show that critical-level generalized utilitarianism and (a version of) critical-level leximin are the limits of RDCLU for extreme values of the rank utility discount factor. Moreover, we establish how RDCLU avoids serious objections raised against other variable population criteria. In particular, it escapes both the Repugnant Conclusion and the Very Sadistic Conclusion (one of which critical-level generalized utilitarianism fails for any critical level).

Suggested Citation

  • Asheim, Geir B. & Zuber, Stéphane, 2014. "Escaping the repugnant conclusion: rank-discounted utilitarianism with variable population," Theoretical Economics, Econometric Society, vol. 9(3), September.
  • Handle: RePEc:the:publsh:1338
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Geir B. Asheim, 2010. "Intergenerational Equity," Annual Review of Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 2(1), pages 197-222, September.
    2. Blackorby,Charles & Bossert,Walter & Donaldson,David J., 2005. "Population Issues in Social Choice Theory, Welfare Economics, and Ethics," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521532587, April.
    3. Carlson, Erik, 1998. "Mere Addition and Two Trilemmas of Population Ethics," Economics and Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 14(02), pages 283-306, October.
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    6. W. M. Gorman, 1968. "The Structure of Utility Functions," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 35(4), pages 367-390.
    7. Zuber, Stéphane & Asheim, Geir B., 2012. "Justifying social discounting: The rank-discounted utilitarian approach," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 147(4), pages 1572-1601.
    8. Palivos, Theodore & Yip, Chong K., 1993. "Optimal population size and endogenous growth," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 41(1), pages 107-110.
    9. Blackorby, Charles & Bossert, Walter & Donaldson, David, 1995. "Intertemporal Population Ethics: Critical-Level Utilitarian Principles," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 63(6), pages 1303-1320, November.
    10. Broome, John, 2006. "Weighing Lives," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199297702.
    11. Ng, Yew-Kwang, 1989. "What Should We Do About Future Generations?," Economics and Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 5(02), pages 235-253, October.
    12. Razin, Assaf & Yuen, Chi-Wa, 1995. "Utilitarian Tradeoff between Population Growth and Income Growth," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 8(1), pages 81-87, February.
    13. Blackorby, Charles & Donaldson, David, 1984. "Social criteria for evaluating population change," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 25(1-2), pages 13-33, November.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Asheim, Geir B. & Zuber, Stéphane, 2016. "Evaluating intergenerational risks," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 65(C), pages 104-117.
    2. Geir B. Asheim & Stéphane Zuber, 2017. "Rank-discounting as a resolution to a dilemma in population ethics," Documents de travail du Centre d'Economie de la Sorbonne 17041, Université Panthéon-Sorbonne (Paris 1), Centre d'Economie de la Sorbonne.
    3. Aurélie Méjean & Antonin Pottier & Stéphane Zuber & Marc Fleurbaey, 2015. "Intergenerational equity under catastrophic climate change," Université Paris1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (Post-Print and Working Papers) hal-01677308, HAL.
    4. Boucekkine, R. & Fabbri, G. & Gozzi, F., 2014. "Egalitarianism under population change: Age structure does matter," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 55(C), pages 86-100.
    5. Geir B. Asheim & Stéphane Zuber, 2014. "Probability Adjusted Rank-Discounted Utilitarianism," CESifo Working Paper Series 4728, CESifo Group Munich.
    6. Aurélie Méjean & Antonin Pottier & Stéphane Zuber & Marc Fleurbaey, 2015. "Intergenerational equity under catastrophic climate change," Université Paris1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (Post-Print and Working Papers) hal-01677308, HAL.
    7. Geir B. Asheim, 2017. "Sustainable growth," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 49(3), pages 825-848, December.
    8. Aurélie Méjean & Antonin Pottier & Stéphane Zuber & Marc Fleurbaey, 2015. "Intergenerational equity under catastrophic climate change," Université Paris1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (Post-Print and Working Papers) hal-01677308, HAL.
    9. Asheim, Geir B. & Zuber, Stéphane, 2015. "Evaluating Intergenerational Risks: Probabillity Adjusted Rank-Discounted Utilitarianism," Memorandum 06/2015, Oslo University, Department of Economics.
    10. Kohei Kamaga, 2016. "Infinite-horizon social evaluation with variable population size," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 47(1), pages 207-232, June.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Social evaluation; population ethics; critical-level utilitarianism; social discounting;

    JEL classification:

    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • D71 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Social Choice; Clubs; Committees; Associations
    • H43 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Project Evaluation; Social Discount Rate
    • Q56 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environment and Development; Environment and Trade; Sustainability; Environmental Accounts and Accounting; Environmental Equity; Population Growth

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