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Extending the Original Position: Revisiting the Pattanaik Critique of Vickrey/Harsanyi Utilitarianism

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  • Peter J. Hammond

Abstract

Harsanyi's original position treats personal identity, upon which each individual's utility depends, as risky. Pattanaik's critique is related to the problem of scaling "state-dependent" von Neumann-Morgenstern utility when determining subjective probabilities. But a unique social welfare functional, incorporating both level and unit interpersonal comparisons, emerges from contemplating an "extended" original position allowing the probability of becoming each person to be chosen. Moreover, the paper suggests the relevance of a "Harsanyi ethical type space", with types as both causes and objects of preference.

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  • Peter J. Hammond, 2013. "Extending the Original Position: Revisiting the Pattanaik Critique of Vickrey/Harsanyi Utilitarianism," Global COE Hi-Stat Discussion Paper Series gd12-298, Institute of Economic Research, Hitotsubashi University.
  • Handle: RePEc:hst:ghsdps:gd12-298
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    1. Carsten Krabbe Nielsen, 2009. "Rational Overconfidence and Social Security," Discussion Paper Series 0916, Institute of Economic Research, Korea University.
    2. 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, May.
    3. 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.
    4. Edi Karni & Philippe Mongin, 2000. "On the Determination of Subjective Probability by Choices," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 46(2), pages 233-248, February.
    5. Mongin, Philippe, 2001. "The impartial observer theorem of social ethics," Economics and Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 17(02), pages 147-179, October.
    6. John C. Harsanyi, 1953. "Cardinal Utility in Welfare Economics and in the Theory of Risk-taking," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 61, pages 434-434.
    7. P. S. Dasgupta, 1969. "On the Concept of Optimum Population," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 36(3), pages 295-318.
    8. Hammond, Peter J, 1981. "Ex-ante and Ex-post Welfare Optimality under Uncertainty," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 48(191), pages 235-250, August.
    9. Ross M. Starr, 1973. "Optimal Production and Allocation under Uncertainty," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 87(1), pages 81-95.
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