IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/zbw/ifwedp/201440.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Discounting, beyond utilitarianism

Author

Listed:
  • Fleurbaey, Marc
  • Zuber, Stéphane

Abstract

Discounted utilitarianism and the Ramsey equation prevail in the debate on the discount rate on consumption. The utility discount rate is assumed to be constant and to reflect either the uncertainty about the existence of future generations or a pure preference for the present. The authors question the unique status of discounted utilitarianism and discuss the implications of alternative criteria addressing the key issues of equity in risky situations and variable population. To do so, they introduce a class of intertemporal social objectives, named Expected Prioritarian Equally Distributed Equivalent (EPEDE) criteria. The class is more flexible than Discounted utilitarianism in terms of population ethics and it disentangles risk aversion and inequality aversion. The authors show that these social objectives imply interesting modifications of the Ramsey formula, and shed new light on Weitzman's "dismal theorem".

Suggested Citation

  • Fleurbaey, Marc & Zuber, Stéphane, 2014. "Discounting, beyond utilitarianism," Economics Discussion Papers 2014-40, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW Kiel).
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:ifwedp:201440
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.economics-ejournal.org/economics/discussionpapers/2014-40
    Download Restriction: no

    File URL: https://www.econstor.eu/bitstream/10419/103208/1/799013447.pdf
    Download Restriction: no
    ---><---

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Fleurbaey, Marc & Zuber, Stéphane, 2015. "Discounting, risk and inequality: A general approach," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 128(C), pages 34-49.
    2. Gajdos, Thibault & Maurin, Eric, 2004. "Unequal uncertainties and uncertain inequalities: an axiomatic approach," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 116(1), pages 93-118, May.
    3. Thomas Sterner & U. Martin Persson, 2008. "An Even Sterner Review: Introducing Relative Prices into the Discounting Debate," Review of Environmental Economics and Policy, Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 2(1), pages 61-76, Winter.
    4. Blackorby,Charles & Bossert,Walter & Donaldson,David J., 2005. "Population Issues in Social Choice Theory, Welfare Economics, and Ethics," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521532587.
    5. Marc Fleurbaey, 2010. "Assessing Risky Social Situations," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 118(4), pages 649-680, August.
    6. Fleurbaey, Marc & Zuber, Stéphane, 2015. "Discounting, beyond utilitarianism," Economics - The Open-Access, Open-Assessment E-Journal (2007-2020), Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW Kiel), vol. 9, pages 1-52.
    7. 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.
    8. 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 765-765.
    9. 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.
    10. Christian Traeger, 2014. "Why uncertainty matters: discounting under intertemporal risk aversion and ambiguity," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 56(3), pages 627-664, August.
    11. Stern,Nicholas, 2007. "The Economics of Climate Change," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521700801.
    12. Antony Millner, 2013. "On Welfare Frameworks and Catastrophic Climate Risks," CESifo Working Paper Series 4442, CESifo.
    13. Ben-Porath, Elchanan & Gilboa, Itzhak & Schmeidler, David, 1997. "On the Measurement of Inequality under Uncertainty," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 75(1), pages 194-204, July.
    14. Antoine Bommier & Stéphane Zuber, 2008. "Can preferences for catastrophe avoidance reconcile social discounting with intergenerational equity?," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 31(3), pages 415-434, October.
    15. Gollier, Christian, 2002. "Discounting an uncertain future," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 85(2), pages 149-166, August.
    16. Millner, Antony, 2013. "On welfare frameworks and catastrophic climate risks," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 65(2), pages 310-325.
    17. Christian Gollier, 2012. "Pricing the Planet's Future: The Economics of Discounting in an Uncertain World," Economics Books, Princeton University Press, edition 1, number 9894.
    18. Helgeson, Jennifer & Dietz, Simon & Atkinson, Giles D. & Hepburn, Cameron & Sælen, Håkon, 2009. "Siblings, not triplets: social preferences for risk, inequality and time in discounting climate change," Economics - The Open-Access, Open-Assessment E-Journal (2007-2020), Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW Kiel), vol. 3, pages 1-28.
    19. Marc Fleurbaey & Stéphane Zuber, 2013. "Inequality aversion and separability in social risk evaluation," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 54(3), pages 675-692, November.
    20. Larry G. Epstein & Stanley E. Zin, 2013. "Substitution, risk aversion and the temporal behavior of consumption and asset returns: A theoretical framework," World Scientific Book Chapters, in: Leonard C MacLean & William T Ziemba (ed.), HANDBOOK OF THE FUNDAMENTALS OF FINANCIAL DECISION MAKING Part I, chapter 12, pages 207-239, World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd..
    21. Schelling, Thomas C, 1995. "Intergenerational discounting," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 23(4-5), pages 395-401.
    22. Grant, Simon & Kajii, Atsushi & Polak, Ben & Safra, Zvi, 2012. "Equally-distributed equivalent utility, ex post egalitarianism and utilitarianism," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 147(4), pages 1545-1571.
    23. Partha Dasgupta, 2008. "Discounting climate change," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 37(2), pages 141-169, December.
    24. Broome, John, 2006. "Weighing Lives," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199297702, November.
    25. Martin L. Weitzman, 2009. "On Modeling and Interpreting the Economics of Catastrophic Climate Change," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 91(1), pages 1-19, February.
    26. Fleurbaey, Marc & Gajdos, Thibault & Zuber, Stéphane, 2015. "Social rationality, separability, and equity under uncertainty," Mathematical Social Sciences, Elsevier, vol. 73(C), pages 13-22.
    27. John C. Harsanyi, 1955. "Cardinal Welfare, Individualistic Ethics, and Interpersonal Comparisons of Utility," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 63, pages 309-309.
    28. Ng, Yew-Kwang, 1989. "What Should We Do About Future Generations?," Economics and Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 5(2), pages 235-253, October.
    29. Antoine Bommier & Francois Le Grand, "undated". "A Robust Approach to Risk Aversion," Working Papers ETH-RC-13-002, ETH Zurich, Chair of Systems Design.
    30. John Roemer, 2011. "The Ethics of Intertemporal Distribution in a Warming Planet," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 48(3), pages 363-390, March.
    31. Marc Fleurbaey & Stéphane Zuber, 2013. "Inequality aversion and separability in social risk evaluation," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 54(3), pages 675-692, November.
    32. Chew, Soo Hong & Epstein, Larry G., 1990. "Nonexpected utility preferences in a temporal framework with an application to consumption-savings behaviour," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 50(1), pages 54-81, February.
    33. , R., 2007. "Can intergenerational equity be operationalized?," Theoretical Economics, Econometric Society, vol. 2(2), June.
    34. 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.
    35. Gerard Debreu, 1959. "Topological Methods in Cardinal Utility Theory," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 76, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
    36. Charles Blackorby & Walter Bossert & David Donaldson, 2007. "Variable-population extensions of social aggregation theorems," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 28(4), pages 567-589, June.
    37. William D. Nordhaus, 2007. "A Review of the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 45(3), pages 686-702, September.
    38. Martin L. Weitzman, 2007. "A Review of the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 45(3), pages 703-724, September.
    39. Kreps, David M & Porteus, Evan L, 1978. "Temporal Resolution of Uncertainty and Dynamic Choice Theory," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 46(1), pages 185-200, January.
    40. -, 2009. "The economics of climate change," Sede Subregional de la CEPAL para el Caribe (Estudios e Investigaciones) 38679, Naciones Unidas Comisión Económica para América Latina y el Caribe (CEPAL).
    41. Amartya K. Sen, 1967. "Isolation, Assurance and the Social Rate of Discount," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 81(1), pages 112-124.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
    as


    Cited by:

    1. Aurélie Méjean & Antonin Pottier & Stéphane Zuber & Marc Fleurbaey, 2017. "Intergenerational equity under catastrophic climate change," Documents de travail du Centre d'Economie de la Sorbonne 17040, Université Panthéon-Sorbonne (Paris 1), Centre d'Economie de la Sorbonne.
    2. Dean Spears, 2017. "Making people happy or making happy people? Questionnaire-experimental studies of population ethics and policy," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 49(1), pages 145-169, June.
    3. Aurélie Méjean & Antonin Pottier & Marc Fleurbaey & Stéphane Zuber, 2020. "Catastrophic climate change, population ethics and intergenerational equity," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 163(2), pages 873-890, November.
    4. Fleurbaey, Marc & Zuber, Stéphane, 2015. "Discounting, beyond utilitarianism," Economics - The Open-Access, Open-Assessment E-Journal (2007-2020), Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW Kiel), vol. 9, pages 1-52.
    5. Piacquadio, Paolo G., 2020. "The ethics of intergenerational risk," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 186(C).
    6. Fleurbaey, Marc & Zuber, Stéphane, 2015. "Discounting, risk and inequality: A general approach," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 128(C), pages 34-49.
    7. Hänsel, Martin C. & Quaas, Martin F., 2018. "Intertemporal Distribution, Sufficiency, and the Social Cost of Carbon," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 146(C), pages 520-535.
    8. Dean Spears & Mark Budolfson, 2021. "Repugnant conclusions," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 57(3), pages 567-588, October.
    9. Marc Fleurbaey, 2018. "Welfare economics, risk and uncertainty," Canadian Journal of Economics/Revue canadienne d'économique, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 51(1), pages 5-40, February.

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Piacquadio, Paolo G., 2020. "The ethics of intergenerational risk," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 186(C).
    2. Fleurbaey, Marc & Zuber, Stéphane, 2015. "Discounting, risk and inequality: A general approach," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 128(C), pages 34-49.
    3. Berger, Loïc & Emmerling, Johannes, 2017. "Welfare as Simple(x) Equity Equivalents," MITP: Mitigation, Innovation and Transformation Pathways 254044, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei (FEEM).
    4. Loïc Berger & Johannes Emmerling, 2020. "Welfare As Equity Equivalents," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 34(4), pages 727-752, September.
    5. Adler, Matthew D. & Treich, Nicolas, 2017. "Utilitarianism, prioritarianism, and intergenerational equity: A cake eating model," Mathematical Social Sciences, Elsevier, vol. 87(C), pages 94-102.
    6. Matthew Adler & Nicolas Treich, 2015. "Prioritarianism and Climate Change," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 62(2), pages 279-308, October.
    7. Fleurbaey, Marc & Zuber, Stéphane, 2017. "Fair management of social risk," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 169(C), pages 666-706.
    8. W. Botzen & Jeroen Bergh, 2014. "Specifications of Social Welfare in Economic Studies of Climate Policy: Overview of Criteria and Related Policy Insights," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 58(1), pages 1-33, May.
    9. Fleurbaey, Marc & Zuber, Stéphane, 2017. "Fair management of social risk," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 169(C), pages 666-706.
    10. Bommier, Antoine & Lanz, Bruno & Zuber, Stéphane, 2015. "Models-as-usual for unusual risks? On the value of catastrophic climate change," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 74(C), pages 1-22.
    11. Adler, Matthew & Treich, Nicolas, 2014. "Consumption, Risk and Prioritarianism," TSE Working Papers 14-500, Toulouse School of Economics (TSE).
    12. Christoph M. Rheinberger & Nicolas Treich, 2017. "Attitudes Toward Catastrophe," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 67(3), pages 609-636, July.
    13. Asheim, Geir B. & Zuber, Stéphane, 2016. "Evaluating intergenerational risks," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 65(C), pages 104-117.
    14. Stern, Nicholas, 2014. "Ethics, equity and the economics of climate change paper 2: economics and politics," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 62704, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    15. Aurélie Méjean & Antonin Pottier & Marc Fleurbaey & Stéphane Zuber, 2020. "Catastrophic climate change, population ethics and intergenerational equity," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 163(2), pages 873-890, November.
    16. Edilio Valentini & Paolo Vitale, 2019. "Optimal Climate Policy for a Pessimistic Social Planner," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 72(2), pages 411-443, February.
    17. Antoine Bommier & Bruno Lanz & Stéphane Zuber, 2014. "Fair management of social risk," Documents de travail du Centre d'Economie de la Sorbonne 14017, Université Panthéon-Sorbonne (Paris 1), Centre d'Economie de la Sorbonne.
    18. Kitti, Mitri, 2018. "Sustainable social choice under risk," Mathematical Social Sciences, Elsevier, vol. 94(C), pages 19-31.
    19. Aurélie Méjean & Antonin Pottier & Stéphane Zuber & Marc Fleurbaey, 2017. "Intergenerational equity under catastrophic climate change," Working Papers 2017.25, FAERE - French Association of Environmental and Resource Economists.
    20. Millner, Antony, 2013. "On welfare frameworks and catastrophic climate risks," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 65(2), pages 310-325.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    discounted utilitarianism; social discounting;

    JEL classification:

    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:zbw:ifwedp:201440. 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: . General contact details of provider: https://edirc.repec.org/data/iwkiede.html .

    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 CitEc recognized a bibliographic reference but did not link an item in RePEc 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 RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics (email available below). General contact details of provider: https://edirc.repec.org/data/iwkiede.html .

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

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.