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Journal Articles American Economic Journal: Microeconomics Year : 2021

Fair Utilitarianism

Marc Fleurbaey


Utilitarianism plays a central role in economics, but there is a gap between theory, where utilitarianism is dominant, and applications, where monetary criteria are often used. For applications, a key difficulty is to define how utilities should be measured and compared. Drawing on Harsanyi’s (1955) approach, we introduce a new normalization of utilities ensuring that: (i) a transfer from a rich population to a poor population is welfare enhancing, and (ii) populations with more risk-averse people have lower welfare. We study some implications of this “fair utilitarianism” for risk sharing, collective risk aversion, and the design of health policy.
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Dates and versions

halshs-01441070 , version 2 (19-01-2017)
halshs-01441070 , version 3 (26-09-2017)
halshs-01441070 , version 4 (16-11-2020)
halshs-01441070 , version 1 (12-11-2021)



Marc Fleurbaey, Stéphane Zuber. Fair Utilitarianism. American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, 2021, 13 (2), pp.370-401. ⟨10.1257/mic.20170234⟩. ⟨halshs-01441070v1⟩
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