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Once Upon a Time Preference - How Rationality and Risk Aversion Change the Rationale for Discounting

Author

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  • Christian Traeger

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Abstract

The paper develops an axiomatic framework for rational decision making. The von Neumann-Morgenstern axioms give rise to a richer risk attitude than that captured in the standard discounted expected utility model. I derive three models that permit a more comprehensive risk evaluation. These preference representations differ regarding the consistency requirements that are imposed in the evaluation of uncertain scenarios. Imposing all rationality constraints jointly eliminates pure time preference from economic evaluation. The resulting preference representation still gives reduced weight to expected future utility when uncertainty increases over time. The more we know about the future welfare consequences of our (in)actions, the more weight they receive. If uncertainty is endogenous to the decision process, the new rationale for discounting will yield quite different policy implications than the discounted expected utility model based on pure time preference.

Suggested Citation

  • Christian Traeger, 2012. "Once Upon a Time Preference - How Rationality and Risk Aversion Change the Rationale for Discounting," CESifo Working Paper Series 3793, CESifo Group Munich.
  • Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_3793
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    File URL: http://www.cesifo-group.de/DocDL/cesifo1_wp3793.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Traeger, Christian P., 2010. "Intertemporal risk aversion – or – wouldn’t it be nice to tell whether Robinson Crusoe is risk averse?," CUDARE Working Paper Series 1102, University of California at Berkeley, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Policy.
    2. Emi Nakamura & Jón Steinsson & Robert Barro & José Ursúa, 2013. "Crises and Recoveries in an Empirical Model of Consumption Disasters," American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 5(3), pages 35-74, July.
    3. repec:ebl:ecbull:v:4:y:2007:i:29:p:1-8 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Lars Peter Hansen & Thomas J. Sargent, 2007. "Introduction to Robustness," Introductory Chapters,in: Robustness Princeton University Press.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Christian Traeger, 2014. "Why uncertainty matters: discounting under intertemporal risk aversion and ambiguity," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), pages 627-664.
    2. Gerlagh, Reyer, 2017. "Generous Sustainability," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 136(C), pages 94-100.
    3. Hector, Svenja, 2015. "Extending the Ramsey Equation further: Discounting under Mutually Utility Independent and Recursive Preferences," Annual Conference 2015 (Muenster): Economic Development - Theory and Policy 113061, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    4. Adler, Matthew & Treich, Nicolas, 2014. "Consumption, Risk and Prioritarianism," TSE Working Papers 14-500, Toulouse School of Economics (TSE).
    5. repec:eee:matsoc:v:87:y:2017:i:c:p:94-102 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Piacquadio, Paolo G., 2015. "The Ethics of Intergenerational Risk," Memorandum 15/2015, Oslo University, Department of Economics.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    time preference; discounting; uncertainty; expected utility; recursive utility; risk aversion; intertemporal substitutability; stationarity; certainty additivity; temporal lotteries; intertemporal risk aversion; temporal resolution of risk; discount rate;

    JEL classification:

    • D01 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Microeconomic Behavior: Underlying Principles
    • D60 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - General
    • D81 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Criteria for Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty
    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making
    • H43 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Project Evaluation; Social Discount Rate
    • Q01 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - General - - - Sustainable Development
    • Q51 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Valuation of Environmental Effects
    • Q54 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Climate; Natural Disasters and their Management; Global Warming

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