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Climate JusticeIntegrating Economics and Philosophy$
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Ravi Kanbur and Henry Shue

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198813248

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198813248.001.0001

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Discounting and the Paradox of the Indefinitely Postponed Splurge

Discounting and the Paradox of the Indefinitely Postponed Splurge

Chapter:
(p.175) 10 Discounting and the Paradox of the Indefinitely Postponed Splurge
Source:
Climate Justice
Author(s):

Matthew Rendall

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780198813248.003.0010

It is sometimes argued in support of discounting future costs and benefits that if we gave the same weight to the future as to the present, we would invest nearly all our income, but never spend it. Rather than enjoying the fruits of our investments, we would always do better to reinvest them. Undiscounted utilitarianism (UU), so the argument goes, is collectively self-defeating. This attempted reductio ad absurdum fails. Regardless of whether each generation successfully followed UU, or merely attempted to follow it, we could never get trapped in endless saving. The real problem is different: without the ability to foresee the end of the world, UU cannot tell us how much to save. Discounting is a defensible response, but only when coupled with a rule against risking catastrophe.

Keywords:   discounting, intergenerational justice, indefinitely postponed splurge, jam tomorrow, climate change, imperative of responsibility

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