Matthew Adler, Richard A. Horvitz Professor of Law and Professor of Economics, Philosophy and Public Policy
Prioritarianism is the equitable counterpart to utilitarianism. Rather than merely adding up individual well-being, the prioritarian approach gives extra weight (priority) to those who are worse off.
Prioritarianism was introduced to the philosophical literature two decades ago by Derek Parfit. It has spread to theoretical welfare economics, where it takes the form of a “social welfare function” that sums a concave transformation of well-being numbers. However, the vast bulk of scholarship in climate economics has used a utilitarian social welfare function.
This research seminar will provide an overview of the implications of prioritarianism for climate policy, and will report results from an ongoing modelling exercise that compares the “social cost of carbon” as calculated from utilitarian and prioritarian perspectives.
Listen to Matthew talking about happiness and cost-benefit analysis
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