Justifying social discounting: The rank-discounted utilitarian approach
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Original versionJournal of Economic Theory. 2012, 147 (4), 1572-1601, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jet.2011.08.001
AbstractThe discounted utilitarian criterion for infinite horizon social choice has been criticized for treating generations unequally. We propose an extended rank-discounted utilitarian (ERDU) criterion instead. The criterion amounts to discounted utilitarianism on non-decreasing streams, but it treats all generations impartially: discounting becomes the mere expression of intergenerational inequality aversion. We show that more inequality averse ERDU societies have higher social discount rates when future generations are better off. We apply the ERDU approach in two benchmark economic growth models and prove that it promotes sustainable policies that maximize discounted utilitarian welfare.
NOTICE: this is the author s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Journal of Economic Theory. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Journal of Economic Theory.