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Discounting, beyond utilitarianism

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  • Fleurbaey, Marc
  • Zuber, Stéphane

Abstract

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".

Suggested Citation

  • Fleurbaey, Marc & Zuber, Stéphane, 2015. "Discounting, beyond utilitarianism," Economics - The Open-Access, Open-Assessment E-Journal, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW), vol. 9, pages 1-52.
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:ifweej:201512
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    File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.5018/economics-ejournal.ja.2015-12
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:spr:sochwe:v:49:y:2017:i:1:d:10.1007_s00355-017-1055-7 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. 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.
    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. Piacquadio, Paolo G., 2015. "The Ethics of Intergenerational Risk," Memorandum 15/2015, Oslo University, Department of Economics.
    5. Fleurbaey, Marc & Zuber, Stéphane, 2015. "Discounting, risk and inequality: A general approach," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 128(C), pages 34-49.
    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.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    discounted utilitarianism; social discounting;

    JEL classification:

    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement

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