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The impossibility of social evaluations of infinite streams with strict inequality aversion


  • Alcantud, José Carlos R.


We are concerned with the problem of aggregating infinite utility streams and the possible adoption of consequentialist equity principles when using numerical evaluations of the streams. We find a virtually universal incompatibility between the Basu-Mitra approach (that advocates for social welfare functions and renounces continuity assumptions) and postulates that capture various forms of strict preference for a reduction in inequality like the Strong Equity Principle, the Pigou-Dalton Transfer principle, or Altruistic Equity.

Suggested Citation

  • Alcantud, José Carlos R., 2011. "The impossibility of social evaluations of infinite streams with strict inequality aversion," MPRA Paper 33716, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:33716

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Toyotaka Sakai, 2006. "Equitable Intergenerational Preferences on Restricted Domains," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 27(1), pages 41-54, August.
    2. 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, September.
    3. Alcantud, José Carlos R., 2012. "Inequality averse criteria for evaluating infinite utility streams: The impossibility of Weak Pareto," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 147(1), pages 353-363.
    4. 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.
    5. Ram Sewak Dubey & Tapan Mitra, 2011. "On equitable social welfare functions satisfying the Weak Pareto Axiom: A complete characterization," International Journal of Economic Theory, The International Society for Economic Theory, vol. 7(3), pages 231-250, September.
    6. Juan Crespo & Carmelo Nuñez & Juan Rincón-Zapatero, 2009. "On the impossibility of representing infinite utility streams," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 40(1), pages 47-56, July.
    7. Chiaki Hara & Tomoichi Shinotsuka & Kotaro Suzumura & Yongsheng Xu, 2008. "Continuity and egalitarianism in the evaluation of infinite utility streams," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 31(2), pages 179-191, August.
    8. Alcantud, José Carlos R., 2010. "The compromise efficiency vs. egalitarianism among generations with an infinite horizon," MPRA Paper 22284, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    9. José Carlos R. Alcantud & María D. García-Sanz, 2013. "Evaluations of Infinite Utility Streams: Pareto Efficient and Egalitarian Axiomatics," Metroeconomica, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 64(3), pages 432-447, July.
    10. Banerjee, Kuntal, 2006. "On the equity-efficiency trade off in aggregating infinite utility streams," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 93(1), pages 63-67, October.
    11. Marc Fleurbaey & Bertil Tungodden, 2010. "The tyranny of non-aggregation versus the tyranny of aggregation in social choices: a real dilemma," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 44(3), pages 399-414, September.
    12. Moulin,Hervi, 1991. "Axioms of Cooperative Decision Making," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521424585, May.
    13. Geir Asheim & Tapan Mitra & Bertil Tungodden, 2012. "Sustainable recursive social welfare functions," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 49(2), pages 267-292, February.
    14. Zame, William R., 2007. "Can intergenerational equity be operationalized?," Theoretical Economics, Econometric Society, vol. 2(2), June.
    15. Lauwers, Luc, 2010. "Ordering infinite utility streams comes at the cost of a non-Ramsey set," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 46(1), pages 32-37, January.
    16. Sakamoto, Norihito, 2012. "Impossibilities Of Paretian Social Welfare Functions For Infinite Utility Streams With Distributive Equity," Hitotsubashi Journal of Economics, Hitotsubashi University, vol. 53(2), pages 121-130, December.
    17. Sakamoto, Norihito, 2011. "Impossibilities of Paretian Social Welfare Functions for Infinite Utility Streams with Distributive Equity," Discussion Papers 2011-09, Graduate School of Economics, Hitotsubashi University.
    18. Dubey, Ram Sewak, 2011. "Fleurbaey–Michel conjecture on equitable weak Paretian social welfare order," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 47(4-5), pages 434-439.
    19. Serge-Christophe Kolm, 1977. "Multidimensional Egalitarianisms," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 91(1), pages 1-13.
    20. Bossert, Walter & Sprumont, Yves & Suzumura, Kotaro, 2007. "Ordering infinite utility streams," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 135(1), pages 579-589, July.
    21. Hara, Chiaki & Shinotsuka, Tomoichi & Suzumura, Kotaro & Xu, Yongsheng, 2007. "On the Possibility of Continuous, Paretian and Egalitarian Evaluation of Infinite Utility Streams," Discussion Paper 322, Center for Intergenerational Studies, Institute of Economic Research, Hitotsubashi University.
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    Cited by:

    1. Michele Lombardi & Roberto Veneziani, 2009. "Liberal Egalitarianism and the Harm Principle," Global COE Hi-Stat Discussion Paper Series gd09-078, Institute of Economic Research, Hitotsubashi University.
    2. repec:wly:econjl:v:126:y:2016:i:597:p:2173-2196 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item


    Social welfare functions; Strong Equity Principle; Pigou-Dalton Transfer principle; Altruistic Equity; monotonicity;

    JEL classification:

    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • D71 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Social Choice; Clubs; Committees; Associations
    • D90 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - General

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