Intertemporal Social Evaluation [chapter]

Charles Blackorby, Walter Bossert, David Donaldson
2007 Intergenerational Equity and Sustainability  
Intertemporal social-evaluation rules provide us with social criteria that can be used to assess the relative desirability of utility distributions across generations. The trade-offs between the well-being of different generations implicit in each such rule reflect the underlying ethical position on issues of intergenerational equity or justice. We employ an axiomatic approach in order to identify ethically attractive socialevaluation procedures. In particular, we explore the possibilities of
more » ... ing welfare information and non-welfare information in a model of intertemporal social evaluation. We focus on the birth dates and lengths of the individuals' lives as the relevant non-welfare information. As usual, welfare information is given by lifetime utilities. It is assumed that this information is available for each alternative to be ranked. Various weakenings of the Pareto principle are employed in order to allow birth dates or lengths of life (or both) to matter in social evaluation. In addition, we impose standard properties such as continuity and anonymity and we examine the consequences of intertemporal independence and equivalence properties. For each of the Pareto conditions employed, we characterize all social-evaluation rules satisfying it and our other axioms. The resulting rules are birth-date dependent or lifetime-dependent versions of generalized utilitarianism. Furthermore, we discuss the ethical and axiomatic foundations of discounting in the context of our model. Journal of Economic Literature Classification Number: D63.
doi:10.1057/9780230236769_9 fatcat:xev67oyngvft5hdc7u3rcpnctm