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date: 15 July 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Utilitarianism, it has been said, is not sensitive to the distribution of welfare. In making risky decisions for others there are multiple sensitivities at work. I present examples of risky decision-making involving drug allocations, charitable giving, breast-cancer screening and Caesarian sections. In each of these examples there is a different sensitivity at work that pulls away from the utilitarian prescription. Instances of saving fewer people at a greater risk to many is more complex because there are two distributional sensitivities at work that pull in opposite directions from the utilitarian calculus. I discuss objections to these sensitivities and conclude with some reflections on the value of formal modeling in thinking about societal risk.

Keywords: risk, aggregation theorem, prioritarianism, Derek Parfit, certainty equivalent, equally distributed equivalent, risk aversion, inequality aversion

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