Econometrica: Nov 1995, Volume 63, Issue 6

Intertemporal Population Ethics: Critical-Level Utilitarian Principles

https://doi.org/0012-9682(199511)63:6<1303:IPECUP>2.0.CO;2-D
p. 1303-1320

Charles Blackorby, David Donaldson, Walter Bossert

This paper considers the problem of social evaluation in a model where population size, individual lifetime utilities, lengths of life, and birth dates vary across states. In an intertemporal framework, we investigate principles for social evaluation that allow history to matter to some extent. Using an axiom called independence of the utilities of the dead, we provide a characterization of critical-level generalized utilitarian rules. As a by-product of our analysis, we show that social discounting is ruled out in an intertemporal welfarist environment. A simple population-planning example is also discussed.

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