Equal value of life and the pareto principle

Economics and Philosophy 20 (1):19-33 (2004)
Abstract
A principle claiming equal entitlement to continued life has been strongly defended in the literature as a fundamental social value. We refer to this principle as ‘equal value of life'. In this paper we argue that there is a general incompatibility between the equal value of life principle and the weak Pareto principle and provide proof of this under mild structural assumptions. Moreover we demonstrate that a weaker, age-dependent version of the equal value of life principle is also incompatible with the weak Pareto principle. However, both principles can be satisfied if transitivity of social preference is relaxed to quasi-transitivity. Footnotes1 The authors are grateful to Luc Bovens, Kristian Schultz Hansen, Søren Holm, Franz Huber, Wiebke Kuklys, Gabriella Pigozzi, and two anonymous referees for detailed and very helpful comments on earlier versions of this paper. Any errors and shortcomings are the responsibility of the authors alone.
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