IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

The ignorant observer

Most prominent models of economic justice (and especially those proposed by Harsanyi and Rawls) are based on the assumption that impartiality is required for making moral decisions. However, although Harsanyi and Rawls agree on that, and furthermore agree on the fact that impartiality can be obtained under appropriate conditions of ignorance, they strongly disagree on the consequences of these assumptions. According to Harsanyi, they provide a justification for the utilitarian doctrine, whereas Rawls considers that they imply egalitarianism. We propose here an extension of Harsanyi's Impartial Observer Theorem, that is based on the representation of ignorance as the set of all possible probability distributions. We obtain a characterization of the observer's preferences that, under our most restrictive conditions, is a linear combination of Harsanyi's and Rawls' criteria. Furthermore, this representation is ethically meaningful, in the sense that individuals' utilities are cardinally measurable and unit comparable. This allows us to conclude that the impartiality requirement cannot be used to decide between Rawls' and Harsanyi's positions. Finally, we defend the view that a (strict) combination of Harsanyi's and Rawls' criteria provides a reasonable rule for social decisions.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL: ftp://mse.univ-paris1.fr/pub/mse/cahiers2006/V06041.pdf
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by Université Panthéon-Sorbonne (Paris 1) in its series Cahiers de la Maison des Sciences Economiques with number v06041.

as
in new window

Length: 37 pages
Date of creation: Feb 2005
Date of revision: Mar 2006
Handle: RePEc:mse:wpsorb:v06041
Contact details of provider: Postal: 106 - 112 boulevard de l'Hôpital, 75647 Paris cedex 13
Phone: 01 44 07 81 00
Fax: 01 44 07 81 09
Web page: http://mse.univ-paris1.fr/
Email:


More information through EDIRC

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Cohen, Michele & Jaffray, Jean-Yves, 1980. "Rational Behavior under Complete Ignorance," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 48(5), pages 1281-99, July.
  2. John Weymark, 2005. "Measurement theory and the foundations of utilitarianism," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer, vol. 25(2), pages 527-555, December.
  3. Edi Karni, 2005. "Foundations of Bayesian Theory," Economics Working Paper Archive 524, The Johns Hopkins University,Department of Economics.
  4. P. Mongin & C. d'Aspremont, 1996. "Utility theory and ethics," THEMA Working Papers 96-32, THEMA (THéorie Economique, Modélisation et Applications), Université de Cergy-Pontoise.
  5. Binmore, Ken, 1989. "Social Contract I: Harsani and Rawls," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 99(395), pages 84-102, Supplemen.
  6. MORENO-TERNERO, Juan D. & ROEMER, John E., 2005. "Objectivity, priority, and the veil of ignorance," CORE Discussion Papers 2005081, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
  7. BARBERA, Salvador & BOSSERT, Walter & PATTANAIK, Prasanta K., 2001. "Ranking Sets of Objects," Cahiers de recherche 2001-02, Universite de Montreal, Departement de sciences economiques.
  8. Costis Skiadas, 1997. "Conditioning and Aggregation of Preferences," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 65(2), pages 347-368, March.
  9. De Meyer, B. & Mongin, P., . "A note on affine aggregation," CORE Discussion Papers RP -1136, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
  10. 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.
  11. repec:ubc:bricol:90-03 is not listed on IDEAS
  12. Luce, R Duncan & Krantz, David H, 1971. "Conditional Expected Utility," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 39(2), pages 253-71, March.
  13. DHILLON, Amrita & MERTENS, Jean-François, 1993. "Relative Utilitarianism," CORE Discussion Papers 1993048, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
  14. Epstein, Larry G & Segal, Uzi, 1992. "Quadratic Social Welfare Functions," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(4), pages 691-712, August.
  15. 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.
  16. Edi Karni, 2003. "Impartiality and interpersonal comparisons of variations in well-being," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer, vol. 21(1), pages 95-111, 08.
  17. Thibault Gadjos & Jean-Marc Tallon & Jean-Christophe Vergnaud, 2002. "Decision Making with Imprecise Probabilistic Information," Working Papers 2002-33, Centre de Recherche en Economie et Statistique.
  18. Simon Grant & Atsushi Kajii & Ben Polak & Zvi Safra, 2006. "Generalized Utilitarianism and Harsanyi's Partial Observer Theorem," Levine's Bibliography 321307000000000419, UCLA Department of Economics.
  19. Skiadas, Costis, 1997. "Subjective Probability under Additive Aggregation of Conditional Preferences," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 76(2), pages 242-271, October.
  20. David Schmeidler, 1989. "Subjective Probability and Expected Utility without Additivity," Levine's Working Paper Archive 7662, David K. Levine.
  21. Thibault Gajdos & Takashi Hayashi & Jean-Marc Tallon & Jean-Christophe Vergnaud, 2006. "Attitude toward imprecise information," Cahiers de la Maison des Sciences Economiques v06081, Université Panthéon-Sorbonne (Paris 1).
  22. Chateauneuf, Alain, 1991. "On the use of capacities in modeling uncertainty aversion and risk aversion," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(4), pages 343-369.
  23. Peter A. Diamond, 1967. "Cardinal Welfare, Individualistic Ethics, and Interpersonal Comparison of Utility: Comment," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 75, pages 765.
  24. Dekel, Eddie, 1986. "An axiomatic characterization of preferences under uncertainty: Weakening the independence axiom," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 40(2), pages 304-318, December.
  25. Edi Karni & John A. Weymark, 1998. "An informationally parsimonious impartial observer theorem," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer, vol. 15(3), pages 321-332.
  26. Chew, Soo Hong, 1983. "A Generalization of the Quasilinear Mean with Applications to the Measurement of Income Inequality and Decision Theory Resolving the Allais Paradox," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 51(4), pages 1065-92, July.
  27. P. Mongin., 1999. "The impartial observer theorem of social ethics," THEMA Working Papers 99-33, THEMA (THéorie Economique, Modélisation et Applications), Université de Cergy-Pontoise.
  28. Edi Karni, 1998. "Impartiality: Definition and Representation," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 66(6), pages 1405-1416, November.
  29. Peter Klibanoff, 2001. "Characterizing uncertainty aversion through preference for mixtures," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer, vol. 18(2), pages 289-301.
  30. Karni Edi, 1993. "Subjective Expected Utility Theory with State-Dependent Preferences," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 60(2), pages 428-438, August.
  31. Karni, Edi & Safra, Zvi, 2000. "An extension of a theorem of von Neumann and Morgenstern with an application to social choice theory," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 34(3), pages 315-327, November.
  32. Thibault Gadjos & Jean-Marc Tallon & Jean-Christophe Vergnaud, 2004. "Coping with Imprecise Information : A Decision Theoretic Approach," Working Papers 2004-14, Centre de Recherche en Economie et Statistique.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:mse:wpsorb:v06041. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Lucie Label)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.