Are Long-Lived Persons Utility Monsters? A new GLO Discussion Paper by GLO Fellow Gregory Ponthiere.

A new GLO Discussion Paper finds that Nozick’s objection against utilitarianism turns out to be most relevant for real-world aging societies.

GLO Discussion Paper No. 1186, 2022

Are Long-Lived Persons Utility Monsters? – Download PDF
by Ponthiere, Gregory

GLO Fellow Gregory Ponthiere

Grégory Ponthière

Author Abstract: Nozick’s “utility monster” – a being who is more efficient than other persons at transforming resources into well-being – is often regarded as deeply impossible, on the ground of the incapacity of a single person to have a life that is better than a large number of other lives. In this article, I defend a purely marginalist view of the “utility monster”, that is, that the primary characteristic of a “utility monster” is a higher sensitivity, at the margin, of well-being to resources, rather than a larger total well-being. I propose three purely marginalist accounts of “utility monster” and I introduce the related concept of “collective utility monster”, in order to account for the collective predation of (almost) all resources by a group of persons. I argue that, although a long-lived person, if taken separately, could hardly belong to the category of “utility monster”, a large group of long-lived persons can, under some conditions, belong to the category of “collective utility monster”. In the light of the increasingly large proportion of cohorts reaching very old ages nowadays, Nozick’s objection against utilitarianism turns out, after a thorough review, to be most relevant for real-world aging societies.

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Vol. 36, Issue 1, January 2023: Meet the authors of 16 articles of this issue on December 1, 2022 during the GLO Global Conference 2022.

Vol. 35, Issue 4, October 2022: Journal of Population Economics (JOPE): 15 articles
CiteScore of JOPE moves up from 3.9 (2020) to 6.5 (2021). LINK
Similar, its Impact Factor is now 4.7 (2021) after 2.8 (2020)! LINK

GLO Discussion Papers are research and policy papers of the GLO Network which are widely circulated to encourage discussion. Provided in cooperation with EconStor, a service of the ZBW – Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, GLO Discussion Papers are among others listed in RePEc (see IDEAS,  EconPapers)Complete list of all GLO DPs – downloadable for free.

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