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Well-Being and Fair DistributionBeyond Cost-Benefit Analysis$
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Matthew Adler

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780195384994

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195384994.001.0001

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The Case for a Continuous Prioritarian SWF

The Case for a Continuous Prioritarian SWF

(p.307) 5 The Case for a Continuous Prioritarian SWF
Well-Being and Fair Distribution

Matthew D. Adler

Oxford University Press

This chapter turns to the question of the functional form of the rule R. It argues that the most attractive such rule is a continuous prioritarian social welfare function (SWF), which says: outcome x is morally at least as good as outcome y iff Σ i=1 N g(ui (x)) ≤ Σ i=1 N g(ui (y)) for all u(.) in U, with the g(.) function strictly increasing and strictly concave. Yet more precisely, the most attractive such rule is a particular kind of continuous prioritarian SWF, namely an “Atkinson” SWF, which says: x is morally at least as good as y iff (1−γ)−1 Σ i=1 N ui (x)(1−γ) ≤ (1−γ)−1 Σ i=1 N ui (y)(1−γ), for all u(.) in U. The γ parameter for the Atkinson SWF is a so-called inequality-aversion parameter that takes some value greater than zero. The universe of SWFs is usefully organized around three axioms: the Pigou–Dalton axiom, an axiom of separability, and a continuity axiom. The chapter is interested in the Pigou–Dalton principle in terms of well-being.

Keywords:   continuous prioritarian social welfare function, Atkinson SWF, inequality-aversion parameter, Pigou–Dalton principle, well-being

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