- David was recently interviewed in The Reasoner.
- David will be visiting KCL in May 2019
It is well known that there are many forms of democracy. It seems likely that none of them is perfect. But when voters are uncertain about the consequences of what they are voting for, democracy is even more puzzling.
One idea that seems plausible is that if every member of society prefers X to Y, then society should be seen as preferring X to Y. But when uncertainty is involved, even that is a bad idea. This post explains why, with a practical illustration involving Brexit and Trump.
Utilitarianism is often criticized for making assumptions about welfare comparisons that are too strong to be plausible. Roughly speaking, it assumes that all goods can be precisely measured and compared. This criticism applies both to classical utilitarianism, and to Harsanyi’s more sophisticated version.
However, joint work with Kalle Mikkola and Teru Thomas provides a response. Our version of utilitarianism, a generalization of Harsanyi’s, has almost unlimited flexibility when it comes to welfare comparisons. It allows for all kinds of incomparabilities. The post connects this flexibility with uncertainty.