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Utilitarianism, the difference principle, and the veil of ignorance: An application of the theory of social situations. (English) Zbl 0854.90005
Selten, Reinhard (ed.), Rational interaction. Essays in honor of John C. Harsanyi. Berlin: Springer-Verlag. 337-351 (1992).
Summary: Both Harsanyi and Rawls have been credited with introducing the idea of the veil of ignorance as a though experiment to motivate deliberation about the correct standard of justice for a society. Harsanyi argues that behind the veil of ignorance, ‘agents’ would (or should) choose the utilitarian social choice rule, and Rawls argues they would choose the maximin rule. In this paper, I use Greenberg’s innovative theory of social situations [see J. Greenberg, ‘Social situations: a game-theoretic approach”, Cambridge Univ. Press (1990)] to study the problem of choice of income distribution behind a veil of ignorance.
The model is adapted from R. E. Howe and the author [Am. Econ. Rev. 71, No. 5, 880-895 (1981)]. In the paper, the author claimed to show that the maximin income distribution was the unique point in the core of game that agents could be conceived of as playing behind the veil of ignorance. The core was taken to model the notion of a social contract, reflecting Rawls’s contractarian views. In fact, however, the author really showed that the maximin allocation as a ‘core-like’ outcome in a ‘game-like’ situation. With hindsight, it now appears that Greenberg’s ‘social situation’ is what we really needed.
For the entire collection see [Zbl 0829.00011].

91B14 Social choice
91A12 Cooperative games