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Justifying Social Discounting: The Rank-Discounted Utilitarian Approach

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  • Stéphane Zuber
  • Geir B. Asheim

Abstract

The discounted utilitarian criterion for infinite horizon social choice has been criticized for treating generations unequally. We propose an extended rank-discounted utilitarian (ERDU) criterion instead. The criterion amounts to discounted utilitarianism on non-decreasing streams, but it treats all generations impartially: discounting becomes the mere expression of intergenerational inequality aversion. We show that more inequality averse ERDU societies have higher social discount rates when future generations are better-off. We apply the ERDU approach in two benchmark economic growth models and prove that it promotes sustainable policies that maximize discounted utilitarian welfare.

Suggested Citation

  • Stéphane Zuber & Geir B. Asheim, 2010. "Justifying Social Discounting: The Rank-Discounted Utilitarian Approach," CESifo Working Paper Series 3192, CESifo Group Munich.
  • Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_3192
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    intergenerational equity; social discounting; discounted utilitarianism; sustainability;

    JEL classification:

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