Longtermism and social risk-taking

In Jacob Barrett, Hilary Greaves & David Thorstad (eds.), Essays on Longtermism. Oxford University Press (forthcoming)
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A social planner who evaluates risky public policies in light of the other risks with which their society will be faced should judge favourably some such policies even though they would deem them too risky when considered in isolation. I suggest that a longtermist would—or at least should—evaluate risky polices in light of their prediction about future risks; hence, longtermism supports social risk-taking. I consider two formal versions of this argument, discuss the conditions needed for the argument to be valid, and briefly compare these conditions to some risky policy options with which actual public decision-makers are faced.

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H. Orri Stefansson
Stockholm University


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