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Generalized Utilitarianism and Harsanyi's Partial Observer Theorem

  • Simon Grant
  • Atsushi Kajii
  • Ben Polak
  • Zvi Safra

We provide an axiomatization of generalized utilitarian social welfare functions in the context of Harsanyi's impartial observer theorem. To do this, we reformulate Harsanyi's problem such that lotteries over identity (accidents of birth) and lotteries over outcomes (life chances) are independent. We show how to accommodate (first) Diamond's critique concerning fairness and (second) Pattanaik's critique concerning differing attitudes toward risk. In each case, we show what separates them from Harsanyi by showing what extra axioms return us to Harsanyi. Thus we provide two new axiomatizations of Harsanyi's utilitarianism.

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Paper provided by UCLA Department of Economics in its series Levine's Bibliography with number 321307000000000419.

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Date of creation: 22 Sep 2006
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Handle: RePEc:cla:levrem:321307000000000419
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  1. Edi Karni, 1996. "Social welfare functions and fairness," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer, vol. 13(4), pages 487-496.
  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. Broome, John, 1984. "Uncertainty and Fairness," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 94(375), pages 624-32, September.
  4. Mongin, P., 1999. "The Impartial Observer Theorem of Social Ethics," Papers 99-33, Paris X - Nanterre, U.F.R. de Sc. Ec. Gest. Maths Infor..
  5. Karni, Edi & Safra, Zvi, 2000. "An extension of a theorem of von Neumann and Morgenstern with an application to social choice theory," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 34(3), pages 315-327, November.
  6. Grant, S & Kajii, A & Polak, B, 1997. "Intrinsic Preference for Information," Papers 323, Australian National University - Department of Economics.
  7. Sen, Amartya K, 1977. "On Weights and Measures: Informational Constraints in Social Welfare Analysis," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 45(7), pages 1539-72, October.
  8. Peter A. Diamond, 1967. "Cardinal Welfare, Individualistic Ethics, and Interpersonal Comparison of Utility: Comment," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 75, pages 765.
  9. Myerson, Roger B, 1981. "Utilitarianism, Egalitarianism, and the Timing Effect in Social Choice Problems," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 49(4), pages 883-97, June.
  10. Roberts, Kevin W S, 1980. "Possibility Theorems with Interpersonally Comparable Welfare Levels," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 47(2), pages 409-20, January.
  11. Kreps, David M. & Porteus, Evan L., 1979. "Temporal von neumann-morgenstern and induced preferences," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 20(1), pages 81-109, February.
  12. Edi Karni & Zvi Safra, 2002. "Individual Sense of Justice: A Utility Representation," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 70(1), pages 263-284, January.
  13. Hammond, Peter J, 1981. "Ex-ante and Ex-post Welfare Optimality under Uncertainty," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 48(191), pages 235-50, August.
  14. 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.
  15. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521424585 is not listed on IDEAS
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