Generalized Utilitarianism and Harsanyi's Impartial Observer Theorem
Rice University - Department of Economics; Australian National University
Institute of Economic Research, Kyoto University; Singapore Management University
Yale University - Department of Economics
Tel Aviv University - Faculty of Management
Cowles Foundation Discussion Paper No. 1578
We provide an axiomatization of generalized utilitarian social welfare functions in the context of Harsanyi's impartial observer theorem. To do this, we reformulate Harsanyi's problem such that lotteries over identity (accidents of birth) and lotteries over outcomes (life chances) are independent. We show how to accommodate (first) Diamond's critique concerning fairness and (second) Pattanaik's critique concerning differing attitudes toward risk. In each case, we show what separates them from Harsanyi by showing what extra axioms return us to Harsanyi. Thus we provide two new axiomatizations of Harsanyi's utilitarianism.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 60
Keywords: Generalized utilitarianism, Impartial observer, Social welfare function, Fairness, Ex ante egalitarianism
JEL Classification: D63, D71working papers series
Date posted: September 27, 2006
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