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De Clippel, Geoffroy
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Working Paper, Brown University, Department of Economics 2010-4
The paper aims at extending the egalitarian principle to environments with incomplete information. The approach is primarily axiomatic, focusing on the characteristic property of monotonicity: no member of the society should be worse off when more collective decisions are available. I start by showing the incompatibility of this property with incentive effciency, even in quasi-linear environments. This serious impossibility result does not follow from the mere presence of incentive constraints, but instead from the fact that information is incomplete (asymmetric information at the time of making a decision). I then weaken the monotonicity property so as to require it only when starting from incentive compatible mechanisms at which interim utilities are transferable (in a weak sense). Adding other axioms in the spirit of Kalai's (Econometrica, 1977, Theorem 1) classical characterization of the egalitarian principle under complete information, I obtain a partial characterization of a natural extension of the lex-min solution to problems with incomplete information. Next, I prove that, in each social choice problem, there is a unique way of rescaling the participants' interim utilities so as to make this solution compatible with the ex-ante utilitarian principle. These two criteria coincides in the rescaled utilities exactly at the incentive effcient mechanisms that maximize Harsanyi and Selten's (Management Science, 1972) weighted Nash product. These concepts are illustrated on classical examples of profit-sharing, public good production and bilateral trade. The richness of the topic of social choice under incomplete information is illustrated by considering two alternative extensions of the egalitarian principle { one based on an idea of equity from the point of view of the individuals themselves (given their private information) instead of an uninformed third party (social planner or arbitrator), and another notion based on the idea of procedural justice.
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Working Paper

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