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Identified versus Statistical LivesAn Interdisciplinary Perspective$
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I. Glenn Cohen, Norman Daniels, and Nir Eyal

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780190217471

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190217471.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 06 December 2021

Welfarism, Equity, and the Choice between Statistical and Identified Victims

Welfarism, Equity, and the Choice between Statistical and Identified Victims

(p.53) 4 Welfarism, Equity, and the Choice between Statistical and Identified Victims
Identified versus Statistical Lives

Matthew D. Adler

Oxford University Press

This chapter looks at the choice between saving identified and statistical lives through the lens of welfarism. It discusses a variety of specific welfarist methodologies: cost-benefit analysis; a utilitarian social welfare function, applied either in an ex post or ex ante manner; and an equity-regarding social welfare function, again applied ex post or ex ante. In the course of doing so, the chapter punctures various misconceptions about welfarism and life-saving policies. It is untrue that welfarists necessarily ignore equity; evaluate life-saving policies by focusing on the reduction in expected deaths; or decline to give priority to identified victims. Ex ante equity-regarding welfarists, who care about the distribution of expected well-being, will indeed prioritize identified victims; while ex post equity-regarding welfarist, who care about the expected distribution of realized well-being, will not.

Keywords:   welfarism, cost-benefit analysis, social welfare function, equity, ex post, ex ante

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