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Is the Planet Full?$
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Ian Goldin

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199677771

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199677771.001.0001

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Optimum Population, Welfare Economics, and Inequality

Optimum Population, Welfare Economics, and Inequality

Chapter:
(p.23) 2 Optimum Population, Welfare Economics, and Inequality
Source:
Is the Planet Full?
Author(s):

Anthony B. Atkinson

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199677771.003.0002

This chapter argues that the question‘is the planet full?’—is best grounded in terms of the optimum number of people. It points to the limitations of classical utilitarianism and the ‘Repugnant Conclusion’ it inevitably draws: namely, that the single-minded pursuit of total utility encourages bulging populations even if many additional lives are barely worth living. The chapter suggests that Amartya Sen’s concept of poverty as basic capability failure helps us to grapple with the population question. With Sen’s approach other issues become central, such as the allure of technological advancement and individual creativity. Inequality within and between countries is another crucial but often overlooked factor in answering the question, “is the planet full?”

Keywords:   utilitarianism, distribution, technology, inequality, capability, ethics

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