Behavioural utilitarianism and distributive justice
Giorgos Galanis and
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Giorgos Galanis: Goldsmiths, University of London and Centre for Research in Economic Theory and its Applications, University of Warwick.
CRETA Online Discussion Paper Series from Centre for Research in Economic Theory and its Applications CRETA
What are the distributive implications of utilitarianism? Is it compatible with a concern for equality, as many utilitarians have argued? We analyse these questions in the context of a pure allocation problem. We consider an in nitely-lived economy and, drawing on the behavioural literature, assume that individuals have reference-dependent preferences: agents' utility is a function of current consumption and a reference point which captures consumption habits, or the agents' upbringing. Assuming a history of inequalities in consumption and welfare, we show that the utilitarian allocation is equalising: starting from an unequal distribution, consumption and welfare inequalities decrease over time at the utilitarian optimum. However, even though agents are in a relevant sense identical, equality does not obtain at any finite time.
Keywords: utilitarianism; inequality; reference dependent preferences JEL Codes: D63; D9 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-hpe, nep-mic and nep-upt
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Journal Article: Behavioural utilitarianism and distributive justice (2022)
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Persistent link: https://EconPapers.repec.org/RePEc:wrk:wcreta:67
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