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.
Fleurbaey, Marc, and Stéphane Zuber.
American Economic Journal: Microeconomics,
Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
Criteria for Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty