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Utilitarianism for infinite utility streams: summable differences and finite averages

Author

Listed:
  • Jonsson, Adam

    () (Department of Engineering Science and Mathematics)

  • Voorneveld, Mark

    () (Dept. of Economics, Stockholm School of Economics)

Abstract

This paper provides axiomatic descriptions of social welfare relations, defined on infinite streams of utility, that are consistent with the utilitarian criterion on subsets where maximizing aggregate utility has a clear interpretation: the streams, or their differences, are summable. Besides standard assumptions on efficiency, equity and interpersonal comparability, two axioms are introduced and shown to be necessary and sufficient. A more general version of one axiom suffices to distinguish streams with different long-run averages.

Suggested Citation

  • Jonsson, Adam & Voorneveld, Mark, 2014. "Utilitarianism for infinite utility streams: summable differences and finite averages," SSE/EFI Working Paper Series in Economics and Finance 747, Stockholm School of Economics, revised 15 Apr 2014.
  • Handle: RePEc:hhs:hastef:0747
    as

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    File URL: http://swopec.hhs.se/hastef/papers/hastef0747.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Kaushik Basu & Tapan Mitra, 2003. "Aggregating Infinite Utility Streams with InterGenerational Equity: The Impossibility of Being Paretian," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 71(5), pages 1557-1563, September.
    2. Claude D'Aspremont & Louis Gevers, 1977. "Equity and the Informational Basis of Collective Choice," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 44(2), pages 199-209.
    3. Lauwers, Luc, 2010. "Ordering infinite utility streams comes at the cost of a non-Ramsey set," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 46(1), pages 32-37, January.
    4. Basu, Kaushik & Mitra, Tapan, 2007. "Utilitarianism for infinite utility streams: A new welfare criterion and its axiomatic characterization," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 133(1), pages 350-373, March.
    5. Luc Lauwers, 1997. "Continuity and equity with infinite horizons," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 14(2), pages 345-356.
    6. Brock, William A, 1970. "An Axiomatic Basis for the Ramsey- Weizsacker Overtaking Criterion," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 38(6), pages 927-929, November.
    7. Eric Maskin, 1978. "A Theorem on Utilitarianism," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 45(1), pages 93-96.
    8. Svensson, Lars-Gunnar, 1980. "Equity among Generations," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 48(5), pages 1251-1256, July.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Intergenerational equity; aggregating infinite utility streams; ethical social welfare relations;

    JEL classification:

    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • D70 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - General
    • D90 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - General

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