Principled Utility Discounting Under Risk

Moral Philosophy and Politics 6 (1):89-112 (2019)
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Utility discounting in intertemporal economic modelling has been viewed as problematic, both for descriptive and normative reasons. However, positive utility discount rates can be defended normatively; in particular, it is rational for future utility to be discounted to take into account model-independent outcomes when decision-making under risk. The resultant values will tend to be smaller than descriptive rates under most probability assignments. This also allows us to address some objections that intertemporal considerations will be overdemanding. A principle for utility discount rates is suggested which is rooted in probability discounting. Utility discounting is defended against objections from Parfit (1984) and Broome (2005); Broome (2012). A sample utility discount rate is estimated. [Open access]

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Kian Mintz-Woo
University College, Cork


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