Critical levels and the (reverse) repugnant conclusion

Charles Blackorby, Walter Bossert, David Donaldson, Marc Fleurbaey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


It is well-known that there is a trade-off among the properties of population principles that are used to make social evaluations when the number of people in the society under consideration may vary. The commonly used principles either lead to the repugnant conclusion (which is the case for classical utilitarianism), or they violate the Pareto-plus principle and related properties (average utilitarianism is an example of such a principle). This paper examines the nature of this trade-off and shows that the incompatibility between avoiding the repugnant conclusion and the Pareto-plus principle is fundamental and not restricted to the commonly used population principles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Economics/ Zeitschrift fur Nationalokonomie
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1998
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Economics and Econometrics
  • General Business, Management and Accounting


  • Critical levels
  • Population ethics
  • Repugnant conclusion


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