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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. Costis Skiadas, 1997. "Conditioning and Aggregation of Preferences," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 65(2), pages 347-368, March.
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  5. Edi Karni, 2005. "Foundations of Bayesian Theory," Economics Working Paper Archive 524, The Johns Hopkins University,Department of Economics.
  6. Gajdos, Thibault & Tallon, Jean-Marc & Vergnaud, Jean-Christophe, 2004. "Decision making with imprecise probabilistic information," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 40(6), pages 647-681, September.
  7. Mongin, P., 1999. "The Impartial Observer Theorem of Social Ethics," Papers 99-33, Paris X - Nanterre, U.F.R. de Sc. Ec. Gest. Maths Infor..
  8. John Weymark, 2005. "Measurement theory and the foundations of utilitarianism," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer, vol. 25(2), pages 527-555, December.
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  10. Mongin, P & d'Aspremont, C, 1996. "Utility Theory and Ethics," Papers 9632, Paris X - Nanterre, U.F.R. de Sc. Ec. Gest. Maths Infor..
  11. Skiadas, Costis, 1997. "Subjective Probability under Additive Aggregation of Conditional Preferences," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 76(2), pages 242-271, October.
  12. Thibault Gajdos & Takashi Hayashi & Jean-Marc Tallon & Jean-Christophe Vergnaud, 2006. "Attitude toward imprecise information," Université Paris1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (Post-Print and Working Papers) halshs-00130179, HAL.
  13. Edi Karni, 2003. "Impartiality and interpersonal comparisons of variations in well-being," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer, vol. 21(1), pages 95-111, 08.
  14. David Schmeidler, 1989. "Subjective Probability and Expected Utility without Additivity," Levine's Working Paper Archive 7662, David K. Levine.
  15. De Meyer, Bernard & Mongin, Philippe, 1995. "A note on affine aggregation," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 47(2), pages 177-183, February.
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  17. 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.
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  25. MORENO-TERNERO, Juan D. & ROEMER, John E., 2005. "Objectivity, priority, and the veil of ignorance," CORE Discussion Papers 2005081, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
  26. Chateauneuf, Alain, 1991. "On the use of capacities in modeling uncertainty aversion and risk aversion," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(4), pages 343-369.
  27. BARBERA, Salvador & BOSSERT, Walter & PATTANAIK, Prasanta K., 2001. "Ranking Sets of Objects," Cahiers de recherche 2001-02, Universite de Montreal, Departement de sciences economiques.
  28. Binmore, Ken, 1989. "Social Contract I: Harsani and Rawls," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 99(395), pages 84-102, Supplemen.
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