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A utilitarian notion of responsibility for sustainability

Author

Listed:
  • Joachim Fuenfgelt

    () (Department of Sustainability Sciences and Department of Economics, Leuphana University Lueneburg, Germany)

  • Stefan Baumgaertner

    (Department of Sustainability Sciences and Department of Economics, Leuphana University of Lueneburg, Germany)

Abstract

We develop and formalize a utilitarian notion of responsibility for sustainability which is inspired by Singer's (1972) principle and the Brundtland Commission?s notion of sustainability (WCED 1987). We relate this notion of responsibility to established criteria for the assessment of intertemporal societal choice, namely Pareto-efficiency, (discounted) utilitarian welfare maximization, and Brundtland-sustainability. Using a two-generationsresource- model, we find the following. Sustainability and responsibility for sustainability are equivalent if and only if sustainability is feasible. If it is not, there still exists a responsible allocation which is also Pareto-efficient. Further, the utilitarian welfare maximum without discounting always fulfills the criterion of responsibility. Discounting may be responsible to a certain extent if sustainability is feasible. If sustainability is not feasible, discounting is not responsible.

Suggested Citation

  • Joachim Fuenfgelt & Stefan Baumgaertner, 2012. "A utilitarian notion of responsibility for sustainability," Working Paper Series in Economics 234, University of Lüneburg, Institute of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:lue:wpaper:234
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Ernest Partridge, 2003. "In search of sustainable values," International Journal of Sustainable Development, Inderscience Enterprises Ltd, vol. 6(1), pages 25-41.
    2. Nyborg, Karine & Rege, Mari, 2003. "Does Public Policy Crowd Out Private Contributions to Public Goods," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 115(3-4), pages 397-418, June.
    3. Gollier, Christian, 2010. "Ecological discounting," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 145(2), pages 812-829, March.
    4. Brekke, Kjell Arne & Kverndokk, Snorre & Nyborg, Karine, 2003. "An economic model of moral motivation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(9-10), pages 1967-1983, September.
    5. Anthony Heyes & Sandeep Kapur, 2011. "Regulating altruistic agents," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 44(1), pages 227-246, February.
    6. Fleurbaey, Marc, 2012. "Fairness, Responsibility, and Welfare," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199653591.
    7. Frank Krysiak, 2009. "Sustainability and its relation to efficiency under uncertainty," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 41(2), pages 297-315, November.
    8. John Roemer, 2011. "The Ethics of Intertemporal Distribution in a Warming Planet," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 48(3), pages 363-390, March.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    Keywords

    basic needs; Brundtland; discounting; ethics; natural resources; Pareto efficiency; responsibility; Singer; sustainability; utilitarianism;

    JEL classification:

    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • D90 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - General
    • Q01 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - General - - - Sustainable Development

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