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DARP Paper
To Be or not To Be Involved: A Questionnaire-Experimental View on Harsanyi’s Utilitarian Ethics
Yoram Amiel, Frank A Cowell and Wulf Gaertner June 2006
Paper No' DARP 085:
Full Paper (pdf)

JEL Classification: C13; D63

Tags: impartial observer theorem; utilitarianism; welfare.

According to standard theory founded on Harsanyi (1953, 1955) a social welfare function can be appropriately based on the individual’s approach to choice under uncertainty. We investigate whether people really do rank distributions according to the same principles irrespective of whether the comparison involves money payoffs in a risky situation or the distribution of income among persons. We use a questionnaire experiment to focus on the two different interpretations of the Harsanyi approach. There are important, systematic differences that transcend the cultural background of respondents.