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Probability Adjusted Rank-Discounted Utilitarianism


  • Geir B. Asheim
  • Stéphane Zuber


We propose and axiomatize probability adjusted rank-discounted critical-level generalized utilitarianism (PARDCLU). We thus generalize rank-discounted utilitarianism (RDU) (proposed by Zuber and Asheim, 2012) to variable population and risky situations and thereby take important steps towards preparing RDU for practical use, e.g. for evaluation of climate policies and other policy issues with long-run consequences. We illustrate how PARDCLU yields rank-dependent expected utilitarianism - but with additional structure - in a special case, and show how PARDCLU can handle a situation with positive probability of human extinction.

Suggested Citation

  • Geir B. Asheim & Stéphane Zuber, 2014. "Probability Adjusted Rank-Discounted Utilitarianism," CESifo Working Paper Series 4728, CESifo Group Munich.
  • Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_4728

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    4. Epstein, Larry G & Segal, Uzi, 1992. "Quadratic Social Welfare Functions," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(4), pages 691-712, August.
    5. Asheim, Geir B. & Zuber, Stéphane, 2014. "Escaping the repugnant conclusion: rank-discounted utilitarianism with variable population," Theoretical Economics, Econometric Society, vol. 9(3), September.
    6. Antoine Bommier & Stéphane Zuber, 2008. "Can preferences for catastrophe avoidance reconcile social discounting with intergenerational equity?," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 31(3), pages 415-434, October.
    7. Zuber, Stéphane & Asheim, Geir B., 2012. "Justifying social discounting: The rank-discounted utilitarian approach," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 147(4), pages 1572-1601.
    8. 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 434-434.
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    14. Maurice Salles, 2005. "Social Choice," Post-Print halshs-00337075, HAL.
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    Cited by:

    1. Piacquadio, Paolo G., 2015. "The Ethics of Intergenerational Risk," Memorandum 15/2015, Oslo University, Department of Economics.
    2. Fleurbaey, Marc & Zuber, Stéphane, 2015. "Discounting, risk and inequality: A general approach," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 128(C), pages 34-49.

    More about this item


    social evaluation; population ethics; decision-making under risk; critical-level utilitarianism; social discounting;

    JEL classification:

    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • D71 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Social Choice; Clubs; Committees; Associations
    • D81 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Criteria for Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty
    • 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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