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The ignorant observer

  • Thibault Gajdos

    ()

    (CES - Centre d'économie de la Sorbonne - CNRS : UMR8174 - Université Paris I - Panthéon-Sorbonne)

  • Feriel Kandil

    ()

    (CERC - CONSEIL DE L'EMPLOI, DES REVENUS ET DE LA COHESION SOCIALE - Conseil de l'Emploi, des Revenus et de la Cohésion sociale)

We propose an extension of Harsanyi's Impartial Observer Theorem based on the representation of ignorance as the set of all possible probability distributions over individuals. We obtain a characterization of the observer's preferences that, under our most restrictive conditions, is a convex combination of Harsanyi's utilitarian and Rawls' egalitarian criteria. This representation is ethically meaningful, in the sense that individuals' utilities are cardinally measurable and fully comparable. This allows us to conclude that the impartiality requirement cannot be used to decide between Rawls' and Harsanyi's positions.

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Paper provided by HAL in its series Université Paris1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (Post-Print and Working Papers) with number halshs-00177374.

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Date of creation: Aug 2008
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Publication status: Published, Social Choice and Welfare, 2008, 31, 2, 193-232
Handle: RePEc:hal:cesptp:halshs-00177374
Note: View the original document on HAL open archive server: http://halshs.archives-ouvertes.fr/halshs-00177374
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  1. Karni, Edi, 2007. "Foundations of Bayesian theory," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 132(1), pages 167-188, January.
  2. DHILLON, Amrita & MERTENS, Jean-François, 1993. "Relative Utilitarianism," CORE Discussion Papers 1993048, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
  3. Philippe Mongin, 2005. "The Impartial Observer Theorem of Social Ethics," Public Economics 0510002, EconWPA.
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  5. Simon Grant & Atsushi Kajii & Ben Polak & Zvi Safra, 2010. "Generalized Utilitarianism and Harsanyi's Impartial Observer Theorem," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 78(6), pages 1939-1971, November.
  6. repec:ubc:bricol:90-03 is not listed on IDEAS
  7. De Meyer, B. & Mongin, P., . "A note on affine aggregation," CORE Discussion Papers RP -1136, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
  8. Thibault Gajdos & Jean-Marc Tallon & Jean-Christophe Vergnaud, 2004. "Decision Making with Imprecise Probabilistic Information," Université Paris1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (Post-Print and Working Papers) halshs-00086021, HAL.
  9. Edi Karni, 2003. "Impartiality and interpersonal comparisons of variations in well-being," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer, vol. 21(1), pages 95-111, 08.
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  11. MONGIN, Philippe & d'ASPREMONT, Claude, . "Utility theory and ethics," CORE Discussion Papers RP -1423, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
  12. Thibault Gajdos & Takashi Hayashi & Jean-Marc Tallon & Jean-Christophe Vergnaud, 2008. "Attitude toward imprecise information," Université Paris1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (Post-Print and Working Papers) halshs-00451982, HAL.
  13. John A. Weymark, 2005. "Measurement Theory and the Foundations of Utilitarianism," Vanderbilt University Department of Economics Working Papers 0507, Vanderbilt University Department of Economics.
  14. Karni Edi, 1993. "Subjective Expected Utility Theory with State-Dependent Preferences," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 60(2), pages 428-438, August.
  15. Epstein, Larry G & Segal, Uzi, 1992. "Quadratic Social Welfare Functions," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(4), pages 691-712, August.
  16. Dekel, Eddie, 1986. "An axiomatic characterization of preferences under uncertainty: Weakening the independence axiom," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 40(2), pages 304-318, December.
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  18. 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.
  19. Schmeidler, David, 1989. "Subjective Probability and Expected Utility without Additivity," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 57(3), pages 571-87, May.
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  21. Chew, Soo Hong, 1983. "A Generalization of the Quasilinear Mean with Applications to the Measurement of Income Inequality and Decision Theory Resolving the Allais Paradox," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 51(4), pages 1065-92, July.
  22. Uzi Segal, 2000. "Let's Agree That All Dictatorships Are Equally Bad," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 108(3), pages 569-589, June.
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  24. Thibault Gadjos & Jean-Marc Tallon & Jean-Christophe Vergnaud, 2004. "Coping with Imprecise Information : A Decision Theoretic Approach," Working Papers 2004-14, Centre de Recherche en Economie et Statistique.
  25. Peter Klibanoff, 2001. "Characterizing uncertainty aversion through preference for mixtures," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer, vol. 18(2), pages 289-301.
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  27. Skiadas, Costis, 1997. "Subjective Probability under Additive Aggregation of Conditional Preferences," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 76(2), pages 242-271, October.
  28. Barbera, S. & Bossert, W. & Pattanaik, P.K., 2001. "Ranking Sets of Objects," Cahiers de recherche 2001-02, Centre interuniversitaire de recherche en économie quantitative, CIREQ.
  29. Costis Skiadas, 1997. "Conditioning and Aggregation of Preferences," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 65(2), pages 347-368, March.
  30. Edi Karni, 1998. "Impartiality: Definition and Representation," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 66(6), pages 1405-1416, November.
  31. Cohen, Michele & Jaffray, Jean-Yves, 1980. "Rational Behavior under Complete Ignorance," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 48(5), pages 1281-99, July.
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