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Discounting, beyond utilitarianism

Listed author(s):
  • Fleurbaey, Marc
  • Zuber, Stéphane

Discounted utilitarianism and the Ramsey equation prevail in the debate on the discount rate on consumption. The utility discount rate is assumed to be constant and to reflect either the uncertainty about the existence of future generations or a pure preference for the present. The authors question the unique status of discounted utilitarianism and discuss the implications of alternative criteria addressing the key issues of equity in risky situations and variable population. To do so, they introduce a class of intertemporal social objectives, named Expected Prioritarian Equally Distributed Equivalent (EPEDE) criteria. The class is more flexible than discounted utilitarianism in terms of population ethics and it disentangles risk aversion and inequality aversion. The authors show that these social objectives imply interesting modifications of the Ramsey formula, and shed new light on Weitzman's "dismal theorem".

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File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.5018/economics-ejournal.ja.2015-12
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File URL: https://www.econstor.eu/bitstream/10419/109674/1/822417251.pdf
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Article provided by Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW) in its journal Economics: The Open-Access, Open-Assessment E-Journal.

Volume (Year): 9 (2015)
Issue (Month): ()
Pages: 1-52

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Handle: RePEc:zbw:ifweej:201512
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  1. Gajdos, Thibault & Maurin, Eric, 2004. "Unequal uncertainties and uncertain inequalities: an axiomatic approach," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 116(1), pages 93-118, May.
  2. Thomas Sterner & U. Martin Persson, 2008. "An Even Sterner Review: Introducing Relative Prices into the Discounting Debate," Review of Environmental Economics and Policy, Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 2(1), pages 61-76, Winter.
  3. 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, August.
  4. Marc Fleurbaey, 2010. "Assessing Risky Social Situations," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 118(4), pages 649-680, 08.
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  6. Kaushik Basu & Tapan Mitra, 2003. "Aggregating Infinite Utility Streams with InterGenerational Equity: The Impossibility of Being Paretian," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 71(5), pages 1557-1563, 09.
  7. Christian Traeger, 2014. "Why uncertainty matters: discounting under intertemporal risk aversion and ambiguity," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 56(3), pages 627-664, August.
  8. Antony Millner, 2013. "On Welfare Frameworks and Catastrophic Climate Risks," CESifo Working Paper Series 4442, CESifo Group Munich.
  9. Ben-Porath, Elchanan & Gilboa, Itzhak & Schmeidler, David, 1997. "On the Measurement of Inequality under Uncertainty," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 75(1), pages 194-204, July.
  10. Antoine Bommier & Stéphane Zuber, 2008. "Can preferences for catastrophe avoidance reconcile social discounting with intergenerational equity?," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 31(3), pages 415-434, October.
  11. Gollier, Christian, 2002. "Discounting an uncertain future," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 85(2), pages 149-166, August.
  12. Millner, Antony, 2013. "On welfare frameworks and catastrophic climate risks," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 65(2), pages 310-325.
  13. Christian Gollier, 2012. "Pricing the Planet's Future: The Economics of Discounting in an Uncertain World," Economics Books, Princeton University Press, edition 1, number 9894, June.
  14. Marc Fleurbaey & Stéphane Zuber, 2013. "Inequality aversion and separability in social risk evaluation," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 54(3), pages 675-692, November.
  15. Schelling, Thomas C, 1995. "Intergenerational discounting," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 23(4-5), pages 395-401.
  16. Grant, Simon & Kajii, Atsushi & Polak, Ben & Safra, Zvi, 2012. "Equally-distributed equivalent utility, ex post egalitarianism and utilitarianism," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 147(4), pages 1545-1571.
  17. Partha Dasgupta, 2008. "Discounting climate change," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 37(2), pages 141-169, December.
  18. Broome, John, 2006. "Weighing Lives," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199297702.
  19. Fleurbaey, Marc & Gajdos, Thibault & Zuber, Stéphane, 2015. "Social rationality, separability, and equity under uncertainty," Mathematical Social Sciences, Elsevier, vol. 73(C), pages 13-22.
  20. John C. Harsanyi, 1955. "Cardinal Welfare, Individualistic Ethics, and Interpersonal Comparisons of Utility," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 63, pages 309-309.
  21. Antoine Bommier & Francois Le Grand, "undated". "A Robust Approach to Risk Aversion," Working Papers ETH-RC-13-002, ETH Zurich, Chair of Systems Design.
  22. John Roemer, 2011. "The Ethics of Intertemporal Distribution in a Warming Planet," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 48(3), pages 363-390, March.
  23. Chew, Soo Hong & Epstein, Larry G., 1990. "Nonexpected utility preferences in a temporal framework with an application to consumption-savings behaviour," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 50(1), pages 54-81, February.
  24. Lauwers, Luc, 2010. "Ordering infinite utility streams comes at the cost of a non-Ramsey set," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 46(1), pages 32-37, January.
  25. Fleurbaey, Marc & Zuber, Stéphane, 2015. "Discounting, risk and inequality: A general approach," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 128(C), pages 34-49.
  26. Epstein, Larry G & Zin, Stanley E, 1989. "Substitution, Risk Aversion, and the Temporal Behavior of Consumption and Asset Returns: A Theoretical Framework," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 57(4), pages 937-969, July.
  27. William D. Nordhaus, 2007. "A Review of the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 45(3), pages 686-702, September.
  28. Martin L. Weitzman, 2007. "A Review of the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 45(3), pages 703-724, September.
  29. Kreps, David M & Porteus, Evan L, 1978. "Temporal Resolution of Uncertainty and Dynamic Choice Theory," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 46(1), pages 185-200, January.
  30. Amartya K. Sen, 1967. "Isolation, Assurance and the Social Rate of Discount," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 81(1), pages 112-124.
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