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Social Rationality, Separability, And Equity Under Uncertainty

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Executive Summary

Harsanyi (1955) proved that, in the context of uncertainty, social rationality and the Pareto principle impose severe constraints on the degree of priority for the worst-off that can be adopted in the social evaluation. Since then, the literature has hesitated between an ex ante approach that relaxes rationality (Diamond (1967)) and an ex post approach that fails the Pareto principle (Hammond (1983), Broome (1991)). The Hammond-Broome ex post approach conveniently retains the separable form of utilitarianism but does not make it explicit how to give priority to the worst-off, and how much disrespect of individual preferences this implies.

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