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To Be or not To Be Involved:A Questionnaire-Experimental View on Harsanyi’sUtilitarian Ethics

  • Yoram Amiel
  • Frank A Cowell
  • Wulf Gaertner

According to standard theory founded on Harsanyi (1953, 1955) a social welfarefunction can be appropriately based on the individual's approach to choice underuncertainty. We investigate whether people really do rank distributions according tothe same principles irrespective of whether the comparison involves money payoffs ina risky situation or the distribution of income among persons. We use a questionnaireexperiment to focus on the two different interpretations of the Harsanyi approach.There are important, systematic differences that transcend the cultural background ofrespondents.

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Paper provided by Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines, LSE in its series STICERD - Distributional Analysis Research Programme Papers with number 85.

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Date of creation: Jun 2006
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Handle: RePEc:cep:stidar:85
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://sticerd.lse.ac.uk/_new/publications/default.asp

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  1. Philippe Mongin, 2005. "The Impartial Observer Theorem of Social Ethics," Public Economics 0510002, EconWPA.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Smith, Adam, 1759. "The Theory of Moral Sentiments," History of Economic Thought Books, McMaster University Archive for the History of Economic Thought, number smith1759.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. repec:ubc:bricol:90-03 is not listed on IDEAS
  9. 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.
  10. Yoram Amiel & Frank A Cowell & Wulf Gaertner, 2007. "Distributional Orderings: An Approach with Seven Flavours," STICERD - Distributional Analysis Research Programme Papers 93, Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines, LSE.
  11. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521466967 is not listed on IDEAS
  12. 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.
  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. Harsanyi, John C, 1978. "Bayesian Decision Theory and Utilitarian Ethics," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 68(2), pages 223-28, May.
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