School of Economics and Finance

No. 649: Liberal Egalitarianism and the Harm Principle

Michele Lombardi , University of Surrey
Roberto Veneziani , Queen Mary, University of London

September 1, 2009

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This paper analyses Rawls's celebrated difference principle, and its lexicographic extension, in societies with a finite and an infinite number of agents. A unified framework of analysis is set up, which allows one to characterise Rawlsian egalitarian principles by means of a weaker version of a new axiom - the Harm Principle - recently proposed by [12]. This is quite surprising, because the Harm principle is meant to capture a liberal requirement of noninterference and it incorporates no obvious egalitarian content. A set of new characterisations of the maximin and of its lexicographic refinement are derived, including in the intergenerational context with an infinite number of agents.

J.E.L classification codes: D70, Q01

Keywords:Difference principle, Leximin, Weak harm principle, Infinite utility streams