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Utilitarianism and unequal longevities : A remedy?

Author

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  • LEROUX, Marie - Louise

    () (CORE, Université catholique de Louvain, B-1348 Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium)

  • PONTHIERE, Grégory

    () (Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris, and Paris School of Economics, F-75014 Paris, France)

Abstract

This paper re-examines a counterintuitive corollary of utilitarianism under unequal longevities: the tendency to redistribute resources from short-lived towards long-lived agents, against any intuition of compensation. It is shown that this corollary prevails not only under time-additive lifetime welfare, but, also, in general, under non-additive lifetime welfare, so that this counterintuitive redistributive corollary is a robust argument against utilitarianism. This paper studies a remedy to that counterintuitive corollary. This consists in imputing, when solving the social planner's problem, the consumption equivalent of a long life to the consumption of long- lived agents. We identify the conditions under which such a modified utilitarian optimum involves a compensation of short-lived agents with respect to the laissez-faire. That remedy is also applied to an economy with risky longevity, where short-lived agents are penalized not only by the limited opportunities to spread resources over time (due to a shorter life), but, also, by lost savings (due to unanticipated death).

Suggested Citation

  • LEROUX, Marie - Louise & PONTHIERE, Grégory, 2010. "Utilitarianism and unequal longevities : A remedy?," CORE Discussion Papers 2010043, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
  • Handle: RePEc:cor:louvco:2010043
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Fleurbaey,Marc & Maniquet,François, 2011. "A Theory of Fairness and Social Welfare," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521715348, May.
    2. Gary S. Becker & Tomas J. Philipson & Rodrigo R. Soares, 2005. "The Quantity and Quality of Life and the Evolution of World Inequality," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(1), pages 277-291, March.
    3. Marc Fleurbaey, 2010. "Assessing Risky Social Situations," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 118(4), pages 649-680, August.
    4. Marie-Louise Leroux & Pierre Pestieau & Gregory Ponthiere, 2011. "Optimal linear taxation under endogenous longevity," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 24(1), pages 213-237, January.
    5. Dan Usher, 1973. "An Imputation to the Measure of Economic Growth for Changes in Life Expectancy," NBER Chapters,in: The Measurement of Economic and Social Performance, pages 193-232 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Bommier, Antoine & Leroux, Marie-Louise & Lozachmeur, Jean-Marie, 2011. "On the public economics of annuities with differential mortality," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(7), pages 612-623.
    7. Rabah Amir, 2005. "Supermodularity and Complementarity in Economics: An Elementary Survey," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 71(3), pages 636-660, January.
    8. Marc Fleurbaey, 2005. "Health, Wealth, and Fairness," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 7(2), pages 253-284, May.
    9. Antoine Bommier, 2006. "Uncertain Lifetime And Intertemporal Choice: Risk Aversion As A Rationale For Time Discounting," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 47(4), pages 1223-1246, November.
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    11. Fleurbaey, Marc & Leroux, Marie-Louise & Ponthiere, Gregory, 2014. "Compensating the dead," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 51(C), pages 28-41.
    12. Kenneth J. Arrow, 1971. "A Utilitarian Approach to the Concept of Equality in Public Expenditures," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 85(3), pages 409-415.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Pierre Pestieau & Grégory Ponthière, 2012. "The public economics of increasing longevity," Working Papers halshs-00676492, HAL.
    2. Fleurbaey, Marc & Leroux, Marie-Louise & Ponthiere, Gregory, 2014. "Compensating the dead," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 51(C), pages 28-41.
    3. Pierre Pestieau & Gregory Ponthiere, 2012. "The Public Economics of Increasing Longevity," Hacienda Pública Española, IEF, vol. 200(1), pages 41-74, March.
    4. Marc Fleurbaey & Marie-Louise Leroux & Grégory Ponthière, 2010. "Compensating the dead? Yes we can!," Working Papers halshs-00564934, HAL.
    5. No authors listed, 2016. "Überlegungen zur fairen und nachhaltigen Ausgestaltung eines Pensionskontensystems," Working Paper Reihe der AK Wien - Materialien zu Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft 159, Kammer für Arbeiter und Angestellte für Wien, Abteilung Wirtschaftswissenschaft und Statistik.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    utilitarianism; differential longevity; compensation; redistribution; consumption equivalent;

    JEL classification:

    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health
    • J18 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Public Policy

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