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Intergenerational justice when future worlds are uncertain
Llavador, Humberto; Roemer, John E.; Silvestre, Joaquim
Universitat Pompeu Fabra. Departament d'Economia i Empresa
Let there be a positive (exogenous) probability that, at each date, the human species will disappear.We postulate an Ethical Observer (EO) who maximizes intertemporal welfare under thisuncertainty, with expected-utility preferences. Various social welfare criteria entail alternativevon Neumann- Morgenstern utility functions for the EO: utilitarian, Rawlsian, and an extensionof the latter that corrects for the size of population. Our analysis covers, first, a cake-eating economy(without production), where the utilitarian and Rawlsian recommend the same allocation.Second, a productive economy with education and capital, where it turns out that the recommendationsof the two EOs are in general different. But when the utilitarian program diverges, thenwe prove it is optimal for the extended Rawlsian to ignore the uncertainty concerning the possibledisappearance of the human species in the future. We conclude by discussing the implicationsfor intergenerational welfare maximization in the presence of global warming.
Labour, Public, Development and Health Economics
discounted utilitarianism
expected utility
von neumann-morgenstern
dynamic welfare maximization.
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