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Discounting Dollars, Discounting Lives: Intergenerational Distributive Justice and Efficiency

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  • Louis Kaplow

Abstract

The view that intergenerational distributive justice and efficiency should be treated separately is familiar, yet controversial. This article elaborates the often-implicit justifications for separate treatment and provides a more express statement of how and when such treatment is appropriate. Substantial attention is devoted to an approach that holds constant the intra- and intergenerational distribution of well-being, which proves to be a valuable analytical device even for intergenerational policies that are not distribution neutral. Also explored are possible interrelationships between intergenerational distributive justice and efficiency, the choice of interest rate for discounting dollars, and how the present approach relates to those that would employ direct social weights to dollars at different points in time.

Suggested Citation

  • Louis Kaplow, 2006. "Discounting Dollars, Discounting Lives: Intergenerational Distributive Justice and Efficiency," NBER Working Papers 12239, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12239
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. David Canning, 2012. "Progress in Health around the World," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 48(12), pages 1784-1798, December.
    2. Deborah Lucas & Marvin Phaup, 1975. "The Cost of Risk to the Government and Its Implications for Federal Budgeting," NBER Chapters,in: Measuring and Managing Federal Financial Risk, pages 29-54 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • D61 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Allocative Efficiency; Cost-Benefit Analysis
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • D81 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Criteria for Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty
    • D99 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Other
    • H23 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Externalities; Redistributive Effects; Environmental Taxes and Subsidies
    • H43 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Project Evaluation; Social Discount Rate
    • K32 - Law and Economics - - Other Substantive Areas of Law - - - Energy, Environmental, Health, and Safety Law
    • Q38 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Nonrenewable Resources and Conservation - - - Government Policy (includes OPEC Policy)
    • Q58 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environmental Economics: Government Policy

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