Theory and Decision

, Volume 68, Issue 4, pp 405–415 | Cite as

Individual fairness in Harsanyi’s utilitarianism: operationalizing all-inclusive utility

  • Stefan T. TrautmannEmail author
Open Access


Fairness can be incorporated into Harsanyi’s utilitarianism through all-inclusive utility. This retains the normative assumptions of expected utility and Pareto-efficiency, and relates fairness to individual preferences. It makes utilitarianism unfalsifiable, however, if agents’ all-inclusive utilities are not explicitly specified. This note proposes a two-stage model to make utilitarian welfare analysis falsifiable by specifying all-inclusive utilities explicitly through models of individual fairness preferences. The approach is applied to include fairness in widely discussed allocation examples.


Utilitarianism Outcome fairness Process fairness All-inclusive utility 



I am grateful to Peter P.Wakker and seminar participants at the Decision and Uncertainty Workshop 2006 in Paris and FUR XII in Rome for helpful comments.

Open Access

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial License which permits any noncommercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and source are credited.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Econometric InstituteErasmus University RotterdamRotterdamThe Netherlands

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