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Utilitarianism and unequal longevities : A remedy?

  • 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)

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).

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Paper provided by Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE) in its series CORE Discussion Papers with number 2010043.

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Date of creation: 01 Jul 2010
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:cor:louvco:2010043
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  1. 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(7-8), pages 612-623, August.
  2. 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.
  3. Marc Fleurbaey & Marie-Louise Leroux & Gregory Ponthiere, 2011. "Compensating The Dead," Working Papers 1370, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Econometric Research Program..
  4. Marie-Louise Leroux & Pierre Pestieau & Grégory Ponthiere, 2009. "Should we Subsidize Longevity?," CESifo Working Paper Series 2614, CESifo Group Munich.
  5. Fleurbaey,Marc & Maniquet,François, 2011. "A Theory of Fairness and Social Welfare," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521715348, November.
  6. Winfried Pohlmeier & Luc Bauwens & David Veredas, 2007. "High frequency financial econometrics. Recent developments," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/136223, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  7. Marie-Louise Leroux & Grégory Ponthière, 2008. "Optimal tax policy and expected longevity: A mean and variance utility approach," PSE Working Papers halshs-00586247, HAL.
  8. Marc Fleurbaey, 2005. "Health, Wealth, and Fairness," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 7(2), pages 253-284, 05.
  9. Marie-Louise Leroux & Pierre Pestieau & Grégory Ponthière, 2008. "Optimal linear taxation under endogenous longevity," PSE Working Papers halshs-00586241, HAL.
  10. Marc Fleurbaey, 2007. "Assessing Risky Social Situations," IDEP Working Papers 0703, Institut d'economie publique (IDEP), Marseille, France, revised Jan 2007.
  11. AMIR, Rabah, . "Supermodularity and complementarity in economics: an elementary survey," CORE Discussion Papers RP 1823, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
  12. LEROUX, Marie-Louise & PONTHIERE, Grégory, 2008. "Optimal tax policy and expected longevity: a mean and variance approach," CORE Discussion Papers 2008039, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
  13. Broome, John, 2004. "Weighing Lives," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199243761, December.
  14. Antoine Bommier, 2001. "Uncertain lifetime and intertemporal choice : risk aversion as a rationale for time discounting," Research Unit Working Papers 0108, Laboratoire d'Economie Appliquee, INRA.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. repec:pse:psecon:2008-46 is not listed on IDEAS
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