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Discounting and welfare evaluation of policies


Journal of Public Economic Theory

Published online on


We start with the premise that if policy discounting is to have any welfare relevance, one has to accept it being a derivative of a social welfare function (SWF). We show that if that derivative is to have a net present value (NPV) form, then the baseline allocation must be stationary. In addition, we show that at a stationary baseline in an overlapping generations growth economy, the intergenerationally fair discount rate equals the growth rate of per‐capita consumption, which is, roughly, 2% for the United States. This differs from the interest rate, even in the golden rule equilibrium, unless population growth is null. The last result is based on the main theorem in Mertens and Rubinchik (2012) and is demonstrated for a policy space that might naturally arise in applications.