WP47 2007/10 "Catastrophic risk and egalitarian principles for relief programmes"

Publication from Policies

F. Prettenthaler

, 10/2007


Financial aid for the worst-off victims of floods and other catastrophes seems to be a morally unquestioned principle for the allocation of public funds. This paper shows however, that this principle is ambiguous if the decision is viewed as a dynamic choice problem where such resources need to be allocated in two periods: before and after the event takes place (before and after uncertainty is resolved). The literature on social choice suggests that utilitarian principles fare better in such situations. This paper provides a uniform formal framework to relate one such result, namely a multi-profile version of Harsanyis 1955 theorem by Mongin (1994) to another one by Myerson (1981), stated in a somewhat unconventional social choice framework. It shows that the linearity condition, that is met only by welfare functions of the utilitarian type, has a natural interpretation in terms of an equivalence of ex-ante and ex-post evaluation, a concept that is related to but not equivalent with dynamic consistency.

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