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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

Chapter:
(p.307) 5 The Case for a Continuous Prioritarian SWF
Source:
Well-Being and Fair Distribution
Author(s):

Matthew D. Adler

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195384994.003.0006

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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