Richard Bradley (LSE Philosophy) and H. Orri Stefánsson (Stockholm University) have now published a paper on ‘Fairness and risk attitudes’ online in Philosophical Studies.
According to a common judgement, a social planner should often use a lottery to decide which of two people should receive a good. This judgement undermines one of the best-known arguments for utilitarianism, due to John C. Harsanyi, and more generally undermines axiomatic arguments for utilitarianism and similar views. In this paper we ask which combinations of views about (a) the social planner’s attitude to risk and inequality, and (b) the subjects’ attitudes to risk are consistent with the aforementioned judgement. We find that the class of combinations of views that can plausibly accommodate this judgement is quite limited. But one theory does better than others: the theory of chance-sensitive utility.