IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this paper

A Mixed Bentham-Rawls Criterion for Intergenerational Equity : Theory and Implications

  • LONG, Ngo Van

Ranking development programs using integrals of discounted utilities can yield drastic consequences that offend our sense of justice. New alternative social welfare criteria should be considered. A reaction to discounted utilitarianism is to moderate its effects by adding to the social welfare function a second term that takes seriously the welfare of the generations that live in the far distant future. Chichilnisky proposes a social welfare function that has two desirable properties: (i) non-dictatorship of the present, and (ii) non-dictatorship of the future. However, in many economic models, there exists no optimal path under the Chichilnisky criterion. We introduce a third desideratum: “non-dictatorship of the least advantaged,” and propose a new welfare criterion that is morally compelling. It is a weighted average of two terms: (a) the sum of discounted utilities, and (b) the utility level of the least advantaged generation. We derive necessary conditions to characterize growth paths that satisfy our criterion, and show that in some models with familiar dynamic specifications, an optimal path exists and displays appealing characteristics.

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:
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by Centre interuniversitaire de recherche en économie quantitative, CIREQ in its series Cahiers de recherche with number 06-2007.

in new window

Length: 41 pages
Date of creation: 2007
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:mtl:montec:06-2007
Contact details of provider: Postal:
C.P. 6128, Succ. centre-ville, Montréal (PQ) H3C 3J7

Phone: (514) 343-6557
Fax: (514) 343-7221
Web page:

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. John E. Roemer, 2003. "Eclectic Distributional Ethics," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1408, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  2. Asheim, Geir B. & Buchholz, Wolfgang & Tungodden, Bertil, 2001. "Justifying Sustainability," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 41(3), pages 252-268, May.
  3. Mitra, Tapan, 1983. "Limits on Population Growth under Exhaustible Resource Constraints," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 24(1), pages 155-68, February.
  4. Heal, G., 1998. "Valuing the Future: Economic Theory and Sustainability," Papers 98-10, Columbia - Graduate School of Business.
  5. R. M. Solow, 1974. "Intergenerational Equity and Exhaustible Resources," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 41(5), pages 29-45.
  6. Charles Figuières & Mabel Tidball, 2012. "Sustainable exploitation of a natural resource: a satisfying use of Chichilnisky’s criterion," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 49(2), pages 243-265, February.
  7. Dasgupta, Partha, 1974. "On some alternative criteria for justice between generations," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 3(4), pages 405-423, November.
  8. 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, 09.
  9. Geir B. Asheim & Wolfgang Buchholz, 2002. "A General Approach to Welfare Measurement through National Income Accounting," CESifo Working Paper Series 831, CESifo Group Munich.
  10. Asheim, Geir B., 2000. "Green national accounting: why and how?," Environment and Development Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 5(01), pages 25-48, February.
  11. 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.
  12. Withagen, Cees & B. Asheim, Geir, 1998. "Characterizing sustainability: The converse of Hartwick's rule," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 23(1), pages 159-165, September.
  13. Zame, William R., 2007. "Can intergenerational equity be operationalized?," Theoretical Economics, Econometric Society, vol. 2(2), June.
  14. Asheim,G.B. & Buchholz,W., 2000. "The Hartwick rule : myths and facts," Memorandum 11/2000, Oslo University, Department of Economics.
  15. Pezzey, John C V & Withagen, Cees A, 1998. " The Rise, Fall and Sustainability of Capital-Resource Economies," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 100(2), pages 513-27, June.
  16. Hartwick, John M, 1977. "Intergenerational Equity and the Investing of Rents from Exhaustible Resources," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 67(5), pages 972-74, December.
  17. Kirk Hamilton & Cees Withagen, 2007. "Savings growth and the path of utility," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 40(2), pages 703-713, May.
  18. Geir Asheim & Bertil Tungodden, 2004. "Resolving distributional conflicts between generations," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 24(1), pages 221-230, 07.
  19. Fleurbaey, Marc & Michel, Philippe, 2003. "Intertemporal equity and the extension of the Ramsey criterion," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 39(7), pages 777-802, September.
  20. Chichilnisky, G., 1994. "Sustainable Development and Social Choice," Papers 94-02, Columbia - Graduate School of Business.
  21. David Gale, 1967. "On Optimal Development in a Multi-Sector Economy," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 34(1), pages 1-18.
  22. Brander, James A & Taylor, M Scott, 1998. "The Simple Economics of Easter Island: A Ricardo-Malthus Model of Renewable Resource Use," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(1), pages 119-38, March.
  23. Graciela Chichilnisky, 1996. "An axiomatic approach to sustainable development," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 13(2), pages 231-257, April.
  24. Bossert, Walter & Sprumont, Yves & Suzumura, Kotaro, 2007. "Ordering infinite utility streams," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 135(1), pages 579-589, July.
  25. John C. V. Pezzey, 2004. "Sustainability Policy and Environmental Policy," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 106(2), pages 339-359, 06.
  26. Svensson, Lars-Gunnar, 1980. "Equity among Generations," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 48(5), pages 1251-56, July.
  27. Geir B. Asheim, 1988. "Rawlsian Intergenerational Justice as a Markov-Perfect Equilibrium in a Resource Technology," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 55(3), pages 469-483.
  28. Chichilnisky, Graciela & Beltratti, Andrea & Heal, Geoffrey, 1998. "Sustainable use of renewable resources, Chapter 2.1," MPRA Paper 8815, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  29. Solow, Robert M, 1986. " On the Intergenerational Allocation of Natural Resources," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 88(1), pages 141-49.
  30. Kirk Hamilton & John Hartwick, 2005. "Investing exhaustible resource rents and the path of consumption," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 38(2), pages 615-621, May.
  31. Avinash Dixit & Peter Hammond & Michael Hoel, 1980. "On Hartwick's Rule for Regular Maximin Paths of Capital Accumulation and Resource Depletion," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 47(3), pages 551-556.
  32. Graciela Chichilnisky, 1997. "What Is Sustainable Development?," Land Economics, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 73(4), pages 467-491.
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:mtl:montec:06-2007. 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: (Sharon BREWER)

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.