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Discounting the Long-Distant Future: A Simple Explanation for the Weitzman-Gollier-Puzzle

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  • Wolfgang Buchholz
  • Jan Schumacher

Abstract

In this paper, we reconsider the debate on Weitzman's (1998) suggestion to discount the long-run future at the lowest possible rate, referring to Gollier (2004) and Hepburn & Groom (2007). We show that, while Weitzman's use of the present value approach may indeed seem questionable, its outcome, i.e. a discount rate that is declining over time, is nevertheless reasonable, since it can be justified by assuming a plausible degree of risk aversion.

Suggested Citation

  • Wolfgang Buchholz & Jan Schumacher, 2008. "Discounting the Long-Distant Future: A Simple Explanation for the Weitzman-Gollier-Puzzle," CESifo Working Paper Series 2357, CESifo Group Munich.
  • Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_2357
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    File URL: http://www.cesifo-group.de/DocDL/cesifo1_wp2357.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Hepburn, Cameron & Groom, Ben, 2007. "Gamma discounting and expected net future value," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 53(1), pages 99-109, January.
    2. David J. Evans, 2005. "The elasticity of marginal utility of consumption: estimates for 20 OECD countries," Fiscal Studies, Institute for Fiscal Studies, vol. 26(2), pages 197-224, June.
    3. Jan Schumacher & Wolfgang Buchholz, 2008. "Discounting and Welfare Analysis Over Time: Choosing the ç," CESifo Working Paper Series 2230, CESifo Group Munich.
    4. Weitzman, Martin L., 1998. "Why the Far-Distant Future Should Be Discounted at Its Lowest Possible Rate," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 36(3), pages 201-208, November.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Freeman, Mark C., 2009. "Yes, we should discount the far-distant future at its lowest possible rate: a resolution of the Weitzman-Gollier puzzle," Economics Discussion Papers 2009-42, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW).
    2. Gollier, Christian & Weitzman, Martin L., 2010. "How should the distant future be discounted when discount rates are uncertain?," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 107(3), pages 350-353, June.
    3. Freeman, Mark C. & Groom, Ben & Panopoulou, Ekaterini & Pantelidis, Theologos, 2015. "Declining discount rates and the Fisher Effect: Inflated past, discounted future?," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 73(C), pages 32-49.
    4. Gollier, Christian, 2010. "Expected net present value, expected net future value, and the Ramsey rule," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 59(2), pages 142-148, March.
    5. Wolfgang Buchholz, 2014. "Discounting in an Uncertain World - Disentangling the Debate on the Weitzman-Gollier Puzzle," CESifo Working Paper Series 4967, CESifo Group Munich.
    6. Gollier, Christian, 2009. "Should we Discount the Far-Distant Future at its Lowest Possible Rate?," Economics - The Open-Access, Open-Assessment E-Journal, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW), vol. 3, pages 1-14.
    7. Gollier, Christian, 2016. "Gamma discounters are short-termist," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 142(C), pages 83-90.
    8. Christian Gollier, 2008. "Discounting with fat-tailed economic growth," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 37(2), pages 171-186, December.
    9. Szekeres, Szabolcs, 2015. "When should the distant future not be discounted at increasing discount rates?," MPRA Paper 63437, University Library of Munich, Germany.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    discount rates; uncertainty; risk aversion;

    JEL classification:

    • D40 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design - - - General
    • E43 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Money and Interest Rates - - - Interest Rates: Determination, Term Structure, and Effects
    • Q51 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Valuation of Environmental Effects

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