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Intertemporal Social Evaluation

  • BLACKORBY, Charles
  • BOSSERT, Walter
  • DONALDSON, David

Intertemporal social-evaluation rules provide us with social criteria that can be used to assess the relative desirability of utility distributions across generations. The trade-offs between the well-being of different generations implicit in each such rule reflect the underlying ethical position on issues of intergenerational equity or justice. We employ an axiomatic approach in order to identify ethically attractive socialevaluation procedures. In particular, we explore the possibilities of using welfare information and non-welfare information in a model of intertemporal social evaluation. We focus on the individuals’ birth dates and lengths of life as the relevant non-welfare information. As usual, welfare information is given by lifetime utilities. It is assumed that this information is available for each alternative to be ranked. Various weakenings of the Pareto principle are employed in order to allow birth dates or lengths of life (or both) to matter in social evaluation. In addition, we impose standard properties such as continuity and anonymity and we examine the consequences of an intertemporal independence property. For each of the Pareto conditions employed, we characterize all social-evaluation rules satisfying it and our other axioms. The resulting rules are birth-date dependent or lifetime-dependent versions of generalized utilitarianism. Furthermore, we discuss the ethical and axiomatic foundations of geometric discounting in the context of our model.

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File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/1866/535
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Paper provided by Universite de Montreal, Departement de sciences economiques in its series Cahiers de recherche with number 2005-06.

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Length: 22 pages
Date of creation: 2005
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:mtl:montde:2005-06
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  1. BLACKORBY, Charles & BOSSERT, Walter & DONALDSON, David, 2006. "Population Ethics," Cahiers de recherche 2006-15, Universite de Montreal, Departement de sciences economiques.
    • BLACKORBY, Charles & BOSSERT, Walter & DONALDSON, David, 2006. "Population Ethics," Cahiers de recherche 14-2006, Centre interuniversitaire de recherche en économie quantitative, CIREQ.
  2. Charles Blackorby & Walter Bossert & David Donaldson, 2005. "Multi-profile welfarism: A generalization," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer, vol. 24(2), pages 253-267, 04.
  3. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521825511 is not listed on IDEAS
  4. Roberts, Kevin W S, 1980. "Interpersonal Comparability and Social Choice Theory," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 47(2), pages 421-39, January.
  5. Maskin, Eric, 1978. "A Theorem on Utilitarianism," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 45(1), pages 93-96, February.
  6. Kelsey, David, 1987. "The Role of Information in Social Welfare Judgements," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 39(2), pages 301-17, June.
  7. Broome, John, 2004. "Weighing Lives," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199243761, March.
  8. Blackorby, Charles & Bossert, Walter & Donaldson, David, 2002. "Utilitarianism and the theory of justice," Handbook of Social Choice and Welfare, in: K. J. Arrow & A. K. Sen & K. Suzumura (ed.), Handbook of Social Choice and Welfare, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 11, pages 543-596 Elsevier.
  9. Blackorby, Charles & Bossert, Walter & Donaldson, David, 1997. "Birth-Date Dependent Population Ethics: Critical-Level Principles," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 77(2), pages 260-284, December.
  10. Blackorby, Charles & Bossert, Walter & Donaldson, David, 2000. "The Value of Limited Altruism," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 95(1), pages 37-70, November.
  11. Blackorby, Charles & Bossert, Walter & Donaldson, David, 1995. "Intertemporal Population Ethics: Critical-Level Utilitarian Principles," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 63(6), pages 1303-20, November.
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