Foundations of Weighted Utilitarianism

28 Pages Posted: 15 May 2018

See all articles by Rossella Argenziano

Rossella Argenziano

University of Essex - Department of Economics

Itzhak Gilboa

Tel Aviv University - Eitan Berglas School of Economics; HEC Paris - Economics & Decision Sciences

Date Written: October 1, 2017

Abstract

We provide a microfoundation for a weighted utilitarian social welfare function that reflects common moral intuitions about interpersonal comparisons of utilities. If utility is only ordinal, interpersonal comparisons are meaningless. Nonetheless, economics often adopts utilitarian welfare functions, assuming that comparable utility functions can be calibrated using information beyond consumer choice data. We show that consumer choice data alone are sufficient. As suggested by Edgeworth (1881), just noticeable differences provide a common unit of measure for interpersonal comparisons of utility differences. We prove that a simple monotonicity axiom implies a weighted utilitarian aggregation of preferences, with weights proportional to individual jnd's.

Suggested Citation

Argenziano, Rossella and Gilboa, Itzhak, Foundations of Weighted Utilitarianism (October 1, 2017). HEC Paris Research Paper No. ECO/SCD-2018-1268. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3178731 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3178731

Rossella Argenziano (Contact Author)

University of Essex - Department of Economics ( email )

Wivenhoe Park
Colchester CO4 3SQ
United Kingdom

Itzhak Gilboa

Tel Aviv University - Eitan Berglas School of Economics ( email )

P.O. Box 39040
Ramat Aviv, Tel Aviv, 69978
Israel
972-3-640-6423 (Phone)
972-3-640-9908 (Fax)

HEC Paris - Economics & Decision Sciences

Paris
France

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