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The Spaceship Problem Re-Examined

Author

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  • Pierre-André Jouvet
  • Pierre Pestieau
  • Grégory Ponthière

Abstract

This paper re-examines the spaceship problem, i.e. the design of the optimal population under the environmental constraint of a fixed area available for life, by focusing on the dilemma between adding new beings and extending the life of existing beings. For that purpose, we characterize, under the assumption that individual lifetime welfare depends positively on the length of life but negatively on population density, the preference ordering of a utilitarian planner over lifetime-equal histories, i.e. pairs of initial population size and survival conditions yielding an equal number of life periods. It is shown that a Benthamite planner is not necessarily indifferent between lifetime-equal histories, and that a Millian utilitarian planner prefers lifetime-equal histories yielding the smallest population with the longest life. The solutions under Critical-level and Number-dampened utilitarianisms are also shown to differ significantly.

Suggested Citation

  • Pierre-André Jouvet & Pierre Pestieau & Grégory Ponthière, 2008. "The Spaceship Problem Re-Examined," EconomiX Working Papers 2008-28, University of Paris Nanterre, EconomiX.
  • Handle: RePEc:drm:wpaper:2008-28
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    File URL: http://economix.fr/pdf/dt/2008/WP_EcoX_2008-28.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Victoria Cramer & Svenn Torgersen & Einar Kringlen, 2004. "Quality of Life in a City: The Effect of Population Density," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 69(1), pages 103-116, October.
    2. 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.
    3. Bykvist, Krister, 2007. "The Good, The Bad, And The Ethically Neutral," Economics and Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 23(01), pages 97-105, March.
    4. Ng, Yew-Kwang, 1986. "Social criteria for evaluating population change: An alternative to the Blackorby-Donaldson criterion," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(3), pages 375-381, April.
    5. Crisp, Roger, 2007. "Neutrality And Pleasure," Economics and Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 23(01), pages 81-88, March.
    6. Broome, John, 2006. "Weighing Lives," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199297702.
    7. Blackorby, Charles & Donaldson, David, 1984. "Social criteria for evaluating population change," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 25(1-2), pages 13-33, November.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    environmental congestion; fertility; longevity; population ethics; utilitarianism;

    JEL classification:

    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • 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
    • Q57 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Ecological Economics

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