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Generalized Utilitarianism and Harsanyi’s Partial Observer Theorem

Author

Listed:
  • Simon Grant

    (Dept. of Economics, Rice University)

  • Atsushi Kajii

    (Institute of Economic Research, Kyoto University)

  • Ben Polak

    (Cowles Foundation, Yale University)

  • Zvi Safra

    (Tel Aviv University and College of Management)

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Simon Grant & Atsushi Kajii & Ben Polak & Zvi Safra, 2006. "Generalized Utilitarianism and Harsanyi’s Partial Observer Theorem," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1578, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  • Handle: RePEc:cwl:cwldpp:1578
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Generalized utilitarianism; Impartial observer; Social welfare function; Fairness; Ex ante egalitarianism;
    All these keywords.

    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

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