Ex-Ante Prioritarianism Violates Sequential Ex-Ante Pareto

Utilitas 34 (2):167-177 (2022)
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Abstract

Prioritarianism is a variant of utilitarianism. It differs from utilitarianism in that benefiting individuals matters more the worse off these individuals are. On this view, there are two standard ways of handling risky prospects: Ex-Post Prioritarianism adjusts for prioritizing the worse off in final outcomes and then values prospects by the expectation of the sum total of those adjusted values, whereas Ex-Ante Prioritarianism adjusts for prioritizing the worse off on each individual's expectation and then values prospects by the sum total of those adjusted expectations. A standard objection to Ex-Post Prioritarianism is that it violates Ex-Ante Pareto, that is, it prescribes choices that worsen the expectations for everyone. In this article, I argue that Ex-Ante Prioritarianism suffers from much the same problem: it violates a sequential version of Ex-Ante Pareto, that is, it prescribes sequences of choices that worsen the expectations for everyone.

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Johan E. Gustafsson
University of Texas at Austin

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