The Utilitarian Relevance of the Aggregation Theorem

American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, August 2016, Vol. 8, Issue 3, pp. 289-306

HEC Paris Research Paper No. ECO/SCD-2015-1115

27 Pages Posted: 4 Nov 2015 Last revised: 7 Sep 2016

See all articles by Marc Fleurbaey

Marc Fleurbaey

Princeton University - Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs

Philippe Mongin

GREGHEC; CNRS & HEC Paris - Economics & Decision Sciences

Date Written: September 3, 2015

Abstract

Harsanyi invested his Aggregation Theorem and Impartial Observer Theorem with utilitarian sense, but Sen described them as "representation theorems" with little ethical import. This critical view has never been subjected to full analytical scrutinity. The formal argument we provide here supports the utilitarian relevance of the Aggregation Theorem. Following a hint made by Sen himself, we posit an exogeneous utilitarian ordering that evaluates riskless options by the sum of individual utilities and we show that any social observer who obeys the conditions of the Aggregation Theorem evaluates social states in terms of a weighted variant of this utilitarian sum.

Keywords: Utilitarianism, Aggregation Theorem, Impartial Observer Theorem, Cardinal utility, VNM utility, Harsanyi, Sen

JEL Classification: D63, D71, D81

Suggested Citation

Fleurbaey, Marc and Mongin, Philippe, The Utilitarian Relevance of the Aggregation Theorem (September 3, 2015). American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, August 2016, Vol. 8, Issue 3, pp. 289-306; HEC Paris Research Paper No. ECO/SCD-2015-1115 . Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2685700

Marc Fleurbaey (Contact Author)

Princeton University - Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs ( email )

Princeton University
Princeton, NJ 08544-1021
United States

Philippe Mongin

GREGHEC ( email )

1 rue de la Libération
Jouy-en-Josas, 78350
France

CNRS & HEC Paris - Economics & Decision Sciences ( email )

Paris
France

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