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Fair Utilitarianism

Author

Listed:
  • Marc Fleurbaey

    () (Woodrow Wilson School and Center for Human Values - Princeton University)

  • Stéphane Zuber

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

Abstract

Utilitarianism is a prominent approach to social justice that has played a central role in economic theory. A key issue for utilitarianism is to define how utilities should be measured and compared. This paper draws on Harsanyi's approach (Harsanyi, 1955) to derive utilities from choices in risky situations. We introduce a new normalization of utilities that ensures that: 1) a transfer from a rich to a poor is welfare enhancing, and 2) populations with more risk averse people have lower welfare. We propose normative principles that reflect these fairness requirements and characterize fair utilitarianism. We also study some implications of fair utilitarianism for risk sharing and collective risk aversion.

Suggested Citation

  • Marc Fleurbaey & Stéphane Zuber, 2017. "Fair Utilitarianism," Université Paris1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (Post-Print and Working Papers) halshs-01441070, HAL.
  • Handle: RePEc:hal:cesptp:halshs-01441070
    Note: View the original document on HAL open archive server: https://halshs.archives-ouvertes.fr/halshs-01441070v2
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Fleurbaey,Marc & Maniquet,François, 2011. "A Theory of Fairness and Social Welfare," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521715348.
    2. Sam Schulhofer-Wohl, 2011. "Heterogeneity and Tests of Risk Sharing," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 119(5), pages 925-958.
    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.
    4. repec:eee:jetheo:v:169:y:2017:i:c:p:666-706 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. repec:hrv:faseco:34310083 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Fleurbaey, Marc & Zuber, Stéphane, 2017. "Fair management of social risk," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 169(C), pages 666-706.
    7. Hara, Chiaki & Huang, James & Kuzmics, Christoph, 2007. "Representative consumer's risk aversion and efficient risk-sharing rules," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 137(1), pages 652-672, November.
    8. Fossen, Frank M. & Glocker, Daniela, 2017. "Stated and revealed heterogeneous risk preferences in educational choice," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 97(C), pages 1-25.
    9. Viscusi, W Kip & Evans, William N, 1990. "Utility Functions That Depend on Health Status: Estimates and Economic Implications," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(3), pages 353-374, June.
    10. Fleurbaey, Marc & Blanchet, Didier, 2013. "Beyond GDP: Measuring Welfare and Assessing Sustainability," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199767199.
    11. Zeckhauser, Richard, 1970. "Medical insurance: A case study of the tradeoff between risk spreading and appropriate incentives," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 2(1), pages 10-26, March.
    12. Elyès Jouini & Clotilde Napp & Diego Nocetti, 2013. "Collective risk aversion," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 40(2), pages 411-437, February.
    13. 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.
    14. repec:wly:emetrp:v:85:y:2017:i::p:1261-1276 is not listed on IDEAS
    15. Boadway, Robin, 2012. "From Optimal Tax Theory to Tax Policy: Retrospective and Prospective Views," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262017113.
    16. Paolo Giovanni Piacquadio, 2017. "A Fairness Justification of Utilitarianism," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 85, pages 1261-1276, July.
    17. Martha C. Nussbaum, 2008. "Who Is the Happy Warrior? Philosophy Poses Questions to Psychology," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 37(S2), pages 81-113, June.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Fairness; social risk; utilitarianism;

    JEL classification:

    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • D81 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Criteria for Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty

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