Generalized Utilitarianism and Harsanyi's Impartial Observer Theorem

60 Pages Posted: 27 Sep 2006

See all articles by Simon Grant

Simon Grant

Rice University - Department of Economics; Australian National University

Atsushi Kajii

Institute of Economic Research, Kyoto University; Singapore Management University

Ben Polak

Yale University - Department of Economics

Zvi Safra

Tel Aviv University - Faculty of Management

Abstract

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.

Keywords: Generalized utilitarianism, Impartial observer, Social welfare function, Fairness, Ex ante egalitarianism

JEL Classification: D63, D71

Suggested Citation

Grant, Simon Harold and Kajii, Atsushi and Polak, Benjamin and Safra, Zvi, Generalized Utilitarianism and Harsanyi's Impartial Observer Theorem. Cowles Foundation Discussion Paper No. 1578, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=931408

Simon Harold Grant

Rice University - Department of Economics ( email )

6100 South Main Street
Houston, TX 77005
United States
713-348-3332 (Phone)
713-348-6329 (Fax)

Australian National University ( email )

Coombs Building 9
Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 0200
Australia
61-2-6125-4602 (Phone)
61-2-6125-3051 (Fax)

Atsushi Kajii

Institute of Economic Research, Kyoto University ( email )

Yoshida-Honmachi
Sakyo-ku
Kyoto 606-8501
JAPAN

HOME PAGE: http://www.kier.kyoto-u.ac.jp/~kajii/

Singapore Management University ( email )

School of Economics
90 Stamford Road
Singapore, 178903
Singapore

Benjamin Polak (Contact Author)

Yale University - Department of Economics ( email )

28 Hillhouse Ave
New Haven, CT 06520-8268
United States
203-432-3590 (Phone)
203-432-5779 (Fax)

Zvi Safra

Tel Aviv University - Faculty of Management ( email )

PO Box 39010
Ramat Aviv
Tel Aviv 69978
Israel

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