London School of Economics EOPP: Economic Organisation and Public Policy Programme LSE
EOPP: Economic Organisation and Public Policy Programme

Abstract for:

Population, Consumption and Resources: Ethical Issues

Partha Dasgupta, July 1997
Paper No' DEDPS 05:
Save Reference as: BibTeX BibTeX File | Endote EndNote Import File
Keywords: potential people; actual people; utilitarianism; generation-relative ethics

JEL Classification:

Is hard copy/paper copy available? YES - Paper Copy Still In Print.
This Paper is published under the following series: Development Economics
Share this page: Google Bookmarks Google Bookmarks | Facebook Facebook | Twitter Twitter

Abstract:

This article is about the concept of optimum population and consumption. Even though it is primarily concerned with foundational issues, the various ideas that have been discussed in the literature are tested in the context of economic models with limited resources. It is argued that, broadley speaking, existing theories of optimum population and consumption are variants of average and, what is often termed classical, utilitarianism, respectively. Both classes of theories, are shown to have deficiencies, in great measure because of their reliance on a defective concept of personhood. It is also argued that contractual theories are of little use, because potential people (as opposed to future people) cannot be parties to any contract. A generation-relative ethics is developed and is put to work in an overlapping generations model. It is shown that generation-relative ethics, even when it is a variant of classical utilitarianism, can prescribe considerably lower population than classical utilitarianism.