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Perception-Theoretic Foundations of Weighted Utilitarianism

Argenziano, Rossella and Gilboa, Itzhak (2019) 'Perception-Theoretic Foundations of Weighted Utilitarianism.' The Economic Journal, 129 (620). 1511 - 1528. ISSN 0013-0133

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Abstract

We provide a microfoundation for a weighted utilitarian social welfare function that reflects common moral intuitions about interpersonal comparisons of utilities. If utility is only ordinal in the usual microeconomic sense, interpersonal comparisons are meaningless. Nonetheless, economics often adopt utilitarian welfare functions, assuming that comparable utility functions can be calibrated, using information beyond consumer choice data. We show that consumer choice data alone are sufficient. As suggested by Edgeworth (1881), just noticeable differences (JNDs) provide a common unit of measure for interpersonal comparisons of utility differences. We prove that a simple monotonicity axiom implies a weighted utilitarian aggregation of preferences, with weights proportional to individual JNDs.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HB Economic Theory
Divisions: Faculty of Social Sciences > Economics, Department of
Depositing User: Elements
Date Deposited: 23 Aug 2018 10:04
Last Modified: 09 Jun 2020 01:00
URI: http://repository.essex.ac.uk/id/eprint/22356

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