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Escaping the repugnant conclusion: Rank-discounted utilitarianism with variable population

Listed author(s):
  • Stéphane Zuber

    (CES - Centre d'économie de la Sorbonne - UP1 - Université Panthéon-Sorbonne - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, PSE - Paris School of Economics, CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique)

  • Geir B. Asheim

    ()

    (Department of Economics, University of Oslo - UiO - University of Oslo)

We contribute to population ethics by proposing and axiomatizing rank-discounted critical-level generalized utilitarianism (RDCLU). Population ethics is needed for evaluation of policies, e.g., concerning climate change, where population size depends on the chosen policy. We show that critical-level generalized utilitarianism and (a version of) critical-level leximin are the limits of RDCLU for extreme values of the rank utility discount factor. Moreover, we establish how RDCLU avoids serious objections raised against other variable population criteria. In particular, it escapes both the Repugnant Conclusion and the Very Sadistic Conclusion (one of which critical-level generalized utilitarianism fails for any critical level).

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Paper provided by HAL in its series Université Paris1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (Post-Print and Working Papers) with number halshs-01398371.

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Date of creation: 2014
Publication status: Published in Theoretical Economics, Econometric Society, 2014, <10.3982/TE1338>
Handle: RePEc:hal:cesptp:halshs-01398371
DOI: 10.3982/TE1338
Note: View the original document on HAL open archive server: https://halshs.archives-ouvertes.fr/halshs-01398371
Contact details of provider: Web page: https://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/

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  1. Geir B. Asheim, 2010. "Intergenerational Equity," Annual Review of Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 2(1), pages 197-222, September.
  2. Charles Blackorby & Walter Bossert & David Donaldson, 1995. "Intertemporal Population Ethics: Critical-Level Utilitarian Principles," CESifo Working Paper Series 86, CESifo Group Munich.
  3. Blackorby,Charles & Bossert,Walter & Donaldson,David J., 2005. "Population Issues in Social Choice Theory, Welfare Economics, and Ethics," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521532587, March.
  4. Carlson, Erik, 1998. "Mere Addition and Two Trilemmas of Population Ethics," Economics and Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 14(02), pages 283-306, October.
  5. Blackorby, Charles & Bossert, Walter & Donaldson, David, 1996. "Leximin population ethics," Mathematical Social Sciences, Elsevier, vol. 31(2), pages 115-131, April.
  6. Blackorby, Charles & Bossert, Walter & Donaldson, David, 2002. " Population Principles with Number-Dependent Critical Levels," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 4(3), pages 347-368.
  7. Zuber, Stéphane & Asheim, Geir B., 2012. "Justifying social discounting: The rank-discounted utilitarian approach," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 147(4), pages 1572-1601.
  8. Razin, Assaf & Yuen, Chi-Wa, 1995. "Utilitarian Tradeoff between Population Growth and Income Growth," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 8(1), pages 81-87, February.
  9. W. M. Gorman, 1968. "The Structure of Utility Functions," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 35(4), pages 367-390.
  10. Broome, John, 2006. "Weighing Lives," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199297702.
  11. Blackorby, Charles & Donaldson, David, 1984. "Social criteria for evaluating population change," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 25(1-2), pages 13-33, November.
  12. Ng, Yew-Kwang, 1989. "What Should We Do About Future Generations?," Economics and Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 5(02), pages 235-253, October.
  13. Palivos, Theodore & Yip, Chong K., 1993. "Optimal population size and endogenous growth," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 41(1), pages 107-110.
  14. Blackorby, Charles & Bossert, Walter & Donaldson, David, 1995. "Intertemporal Population Ethics: Critical-Level Utilitarian Principles," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 63(6), pages 1303-1320, November.
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