Paper # Author Title
We suggest that one way in which economic analysis is useful is by offering a critique of reasoning. According to this view, economic theory may be useful not only by providing predictions, but also by pointing out weaknesses of arguments. It is argued that, when a theory requires a non-trivial act of interpretation, its roles in producing predictions and offering critiques vary in a substantial way. We offer a formal model in which these different roles can be captured. Download Paper
People often consume non-durable goods in a way that seems inconsistent with preferences for smoothing consumption over time. We suggest that such patterns of consumption can be better explained if one takes into account the future utility flows generated by memorable consumption goods, such as a honeymoon or a vacation, whose utility flow outlives their physical consumption. We consider a model in which a consumer enjoys current consumption as well as utility generated by earlier memorable consumption. Lasting utility flows are generated only by some goods, and only when their consumption exceeds customary levels by a sufficient margin. We offer axiomatic foundations for the structure of the utility function and study optimal consumption in a dynamic model. We show that rational consumers, taking into account future utility flows, would make optimal choices that rationalize lumpy patterns of consumption . Download Paper
We analyze a model in which agents make investments and then match into pairs to create a surplus. The agents can make transfers to reallocate their pretransfer ownership claims on the surplus. Mailath, Postlewaite, and Samuelson (2013) showed that when investments are unobservable, equilibrium investments are generally inefficient. In this paper we work with a more structured model that is sufficiently tractable to analyze the nature of the investment inefficiencies. We provide conditions under which investment is inefficiently high or low and conditions under which changes in the pretransfer ownership claims on the surplus will be Pareto improving, as well as examine how the degree of heterogeneity on either side of the market a ffects investment efficiency. Download Paper
“Buy local” arrangements encourage members of a community or group to patronize one another rather than the external economy. They range from formal mechanisms such as local currencies to informal “I’ll buy from you if you buy from me” arrangements, and are often championed on social or environmental grounds. We show that in a monopolistically competitive economy, buy local arrangements can have salutary effects even for selfish agents immune to social or environmental considerations. Buy local arrangements effectively allow firms to exploit the equilibrium price-cost gap to profitably expand their sales at the going price. Download Paper
People often consume non-durable goods in a way that seems inconsistent with preferences for smoothing consumption over time. We suggest that such patterns of consumption can be better explained if one takes into account the memories that consumption generates. A memorable good, such as a honeymoon or a vacation, is a good whose mental consumption outlives its physical consumption. We consider a model in which a consumer enjoys physical consumption as well as memories. Memories are generated only by some goods, and only when their consumption exceeds customary levels by a sufficient margin. We offer axiomatic foundations for the structure of the utility function and study optimal consumption in a dynamic model. The model shows how rational consumers, taking into account their future memories, would make optimal choices that rationalize lumpy patterns of consumption. Download Paper
We propose a formal model of scientific modeling, geared to applications of decision theory and game theory. The model highlights the freedom that modelers have in conceptualizing social phenomena using general paradigms in these fields. It may shed some light on the distinctions between (i) refutation of a theory and a paradigm, (ii) notions of rationality, (iii) modes of application of decision models, and (iv) roles of economics as an academic discipline. Moreover, the model suggests that all four distinctions have some common features that are captured by the model. Download Paper
We analyze a model in which agents make investments and then match into pairs to create a surplus. The agents can make transfers to reallocate their pretransfer ownership claims on the surplus. Mailath, Postlewaite, and Samuelson (2013) showed that when investments are unobservable, equilibrium investments are generally inefficient. In this paper we work with a more structured model that is sufficiently tractable to analyze the nature of the investment inefficiencies. We provide conditions under which investment is inefficiently high or low and conditions under which changes in the pretransfer ownership claims on the surplus will be Pareto improving, as well as examine how the degree of heterogeneity on either side of the market affects investment efficiency. Download Paper
This paper, prepared for the Handbook of Game Theory, volume 4 (Peyton Young and Shmuel Zamir, editors, Elsevier Press), surveys work on reputations in repeated games of incomplete information. Download Paper
This paper, prepared for the Handbook of Game Theory, volume 4 (Peyton Young and Shmuel Zamir, editors, Elsevier Press), surveys work on reputations in repeated games of incomplete information. Download Paper
We formulate a notion of stable outcomes in matching problems with one-sided asymmetric information. The key conceptual problem is to formulate a notion of a blocking pair that takes account of the inferences that the uninformed agent might make. We show that the set of stable outcomes is nonempty in incomplete-information environments, and is a superset of the set of complete-information stable outcomes. We then provide sufficient conditions for incomplete-information stable matchings to be efficient. Lastly, we define a notion of price-sustainable allocations and show that the set of incomplete-information stable matchings is a subset of the set of such allocations. Download Paper
People often wonder why economists analyze models whose assumptions are known to be false, while economists feel that they learn a great deal from such exercises. We suggest that part of the knowledge generated by academic economists is case-based rather than rule-based. That is, instead of offering general rules or theories that should be contrasted with data, economists often analyze models that are "theoretical cases", which help understand economic problems by drawing analogies between the model and the problem. According to this view, economic models, empirical data, experimental results and other sources of knowledge are all on equal footing, that is, they all provide cases to which a given problem can be compared. We offer complexity arguments that explain why case-based reasoning may sometimes be the method of choice and why economists prefer simple cases. Download Paper
We formulate a notion of stable outcomes in matching problems with one-sided asymmetric information. The key conceptual problem is to formulate a notion of a blocking pair that takes account of the inferences that the uninformed agent might make from the hypothesis that the current allocation is stable. We show that the set of stable outcomes is nonempty in incomplete information environments, and is a superset of the set of complete-information stable outcomes. We then provide sufficient conditions for incomplete-information stable matchings to be efficient. Lastly, we define a notion of price sustainable allocations and show that the set of incomplete- information stable matchings is a subset of the set of such allocations. Download Paper
A large literature uses matching models to analyze markets with two-sided heterogeneity, studying problems such as the matching of students to schools, residents to hospitals, husbands to wives, and workers to firms. The analysis typically assumes that the agents have complete information, and examines core outcomes. We formulate a notion of stable outcomes in matching problems with one-sided asymmetric information. The key conceptual problem is to formulate a notion of a blocking pair that takes account of the inferences that the uninformed agent might make from the hypothesis that the current allocation is stable. We show that the set of stable outcomes is nonempty in incomplete information environments, and is a superset of the set of complete-information stable outcomes. We provide sufficient conditions for incomplete-information stable matchings to be efficient. Download Paper
People often wonder why economists analyze models whose assumptions are known to be false, while economists feel that they learn a great deal from such exercises. We suggest that part of the knowledge generated by academic economists is case-based rather than rule-based. That is, instead of offering general rules or theories that should be contrasted with data, economists often analyze models that are “theoretical cases”, which help understand economic problems by drawing analogies between the model and the problem. According to this view, economic models, empirical data, experimental results and other sources of knowledge are all on equal footing, that is, they all provide cases to which a given problem can be compared. We offer complexity arguments that explain why case-based reasoning may sometimes be the method of choice; why economists prefer simple examples; and why a paradigm may be useful even if it does not produce theories. Download Paper
We examine markets in which agents make investments and then match into pairs, creating surpluses that depend on their investments and that can be split between the matched agents. In general, each of the matched agents would ”own" part of the surplus in the absence of interagent transfers. Most of the work in the large bargaining-and matching literature ignores this initial ownership of the surplus. We show that when investments are not observable to potential partners, initial ownership affects the efficiency of equilibrium investments and affects the agents' payoffs. In particular, it is possible that reallocating initial ownership could increase welfare on both sides of the match. Download Paper
People often wonder why economists analyze models whose assumptions are known to be false, while economists feel that they learn a great deal from such exercises. We suggest that part of the knowledge generated by academic economists is case-based rather than rule-based. That is, instead of offering general rules or theories that should be contrasted with data, economists often analyze models that are “theoretical cases”, which help understand economic problems by drawing analogies between the model and the problem. According to this view, economic models, empirical data, experimental results and other sources of knowledge are all on equal footing, that is, they all provide cases to which a given problem can be compared. We offer some complexity arguments that explain why case-based reasoning may sometimes be the method of choice; why economists prefer simple examples; and why a paradigm may be useful even if it does not produce theories. Download Paper
Consider two agents who learn the value of an unknown parameter by observing a sequence of private signals. Will the agents commonly learn the value of the parameter, i.e., will the true value of the parameter become approximate common-knowledge? If the signals are independent and identically distributed across time (but not necessarily across agents), the answer is yes (Cripps, Ely, Mailath, and Samuelson, 2008). This paper explores the implications of allowing the signals to be dependent over time. We present a counterexample showing that even extremely simple time dependence can preclude common learning, and present sufficient conditions for common learning. Download Paper
Different markets are cleared by different types of prices---seller-specific prices that are uniform across buyers in some markets, and personalized prices tailored to the buyer in others. We examine a setting in which buyers and sellers make investments before matching in a competitive market. We introduce the notion of premuneration values---the values to the transacting agents prior to any transfers---created by a buyer-seller match. Personalized price equilibrium outcomes are independent of premuneration values and exhibit inefficiencies only in the event of "coordination failures," while uniform-price equilibria depend on premuneration values and in general feature inefficient investments even without coordination failures. There is thus a trade-off between the costs of personalizing prices and the inefficient investments under uniform prices. We characterize the premuneration values under which uniform-price equilibria similarly exhibit inefficiencies only in the event of coordination failures. Download Paper
Different markets are cleared by different types of prices---a universal price for all buyers and sellers in some markets, seller-specific prices that are uniform across buyers in others, and personalized prices tailored to both the buyer and the seller in yet others. We introduce the notion of premuneration values---the values in the absence of any muneration (payments)---created by the buyer-seller match. We characterize the premuneration values under which uniform-price and personalized-price equilibria agree. In this case, we have efficient allocations, including pre-match investment decisions, without the costs of personalized pricing. We then examine the inefficiencies that arise when the premuneration values preclude the agreement of uniform-price and personalized-price equilibria. We view premuneration values as an important consideration in market design. Download Paper
We examine an economy in which the cost of consuming some goods can be reduced by making commitments that reduce flexibility. We show that such consumption commitments can induce consumers with risk-neutral underlying utility functions to be risk averse over small variations in income, but sometimes to seek risk over large variations. As a result, optimal employment contracts will smooth wages conditional on being employed, but may incorporate a possibility of unemployment. Download Paper
Consider two agents who learn the value of an unknown parameter by observing a sequence of private signals.  The signals are independent and identically distributed across time but not necessarily across agents.  We show that that when each agent's signal space is finite, the agents will commonly learn its value, i.e., that the true value of the parameter will become approximate common-knowledge. In contrast, if the agents' observations come from a countably infinite signal space, then this contraction mapping property fails.  We show by example that common learning can fail in this case. Download Paper
We examine an economy in which the cost of consuming some goods can be reduced by making commitments that reduce flexibility. We show that such consumption commitments can induce consumers with risk-neutral underlying utility functions to be risk averse over small variations in income, but sometimes to seek risk over large variations. As a result, optimal employment contracts will smooth wages conditional on being employed, but may incorporate a possibility of unemployment. Download Paper
We examine an economy in which the cost of consuming some goods can be reduced by making commitments that reduce flexibility. We show that such consumption commitments can induce consumers with risk-neutral underlying utility functions to be risk averse over small variations in income, but sometimes to seek risk over large variations. As a result, optimal employment contracts will smooth wages conditional on being employed, but may incorporate a possibility of unemployment. Download Paper
For games of public reputation with uncertainty over types and imperfect public monitoring, Cripps, Mailath, and Samuelson (2004) showed that an informed player facing short-lived uninformed opponents cannot maintain a permanent reputation for playing a strategy that is not part of an equilibrium of the game without uncertainty over types. This paper extends that result to games in which the uninformed player is long-lived and has private beliefs, so that the informed player's reputation is private. We also show that the rate at which reputations disappear is uniform across equilibria and that reputations disappear in sufficiently long discounted finitely-repeated. Download Paper
We examine an economy in which the cost of consuming some goods can be reduced by making commitments to consumption levels independent of the state. For example, it is cheaper to produce housing services via owner-occupied than rented housing, but the transactions costs associated with the former prompt relatively inflexible housing consumption paths. We show that consumption commitments can cause risk-neutral consumers to care about risk, creating incentives to both insure risks and bunch uninsured risks together. For example, workers may prefer to avoid wage risk while bearing an unemployment risk that is concentrated in as few states as possible. Download Paper
For games of public reputation with uncertainty over types and imperfect public monitoring, Cripps, Mailath, and Samuelson (2004) showed that an informed player facing short-lived uninformed opponents cannot maintain a permanent reputation for playing a strategy that is not part of an equilibrium of the game without uncertainty over types. This paper extends that result to games in which the uninformed player is long-lived and has private beliefs, so that the informed player's reputation is private. Download Paper
We study transactions that require investments before trading in a competitive market, when forward contracts fixing the transaction price are absent. We show that, despite the market being perfectly competitive and subject to arbitrarily little uncertainty, the inability to jointly determine investment levels and prices may make it impossible for buyers and sellers to predict the prices at which they will trade, leading to inefficient levels of investment and trade. Download Paper
We examine contemporaneous perfect epsilon-equilibria, in which a player's actions after every history, evaluated at the point of deviation from the equilibrium, must be within epsilon of a best response. This concept implies, but is stronger than, Radner's ex ante perfect epsilon-equilibrium. A strategy profile is a contemporaneous perfect epsilon-equilibrium of a game if it is a subgame perfect equilibrium in a perturbed game with nearly the same payoffs, with the converse holding for pure equilibria. Download Paper
We study the long-run sustainability of reputations in games with imperfect public monitoring. It is impossible tomaintain a permanent reputation for playing a strategy that does not play an equilibrium of the game without uncertainty about types. Thus, a player cannot indefinitely sustain a reputation for non-credible behavior in the presence of imperfect monitoring. Download Paper
We study transactions that require investments before trading in a competitive market, when forward contracts fixing the transaction price are absent. We show that, despite the market being perfectly competitive and subject to arbitrarily little uncertainty, the inability to jointly determine investment levels and prices may make it impossible for buyers and sellers to predict the prices at which they will trade,leading to inefficient levels of investment and trade. Download Paper
We study the long-run sustainability of reputations in games with imperfect public monitoring. It is impossible to maintain a permanent reputation for playing a strategy that does not eventually play an equilibrium of the game without uncertainty about types. Thus, a player cannot indefinitely sustain a reputation for non-credible behavior in the presence of imperfect monitoring. Download Paper
We examine contemporaneous perfect epsilon-equilibria, in which a player's actions after every history, evaluated at the point of deviation from the equilibrium, must be within epsilon of a best response. This concept implies, but is not implied by Radner's ex ante perfect epsilon-equilibrium. A strategy profile is a contemporaneous perfect epsilon-equilibrium of a game if it is a subgame perfect equilibrium in a game achieved by perturbing payoffs by at most epsilon/2, with the converse holding for pure equilibria. Download Paper
We examine a market in which firms confront a moral hazard problem in the provision of product quality, facing a short-term incentive to produce low quality but potentially earning higher profits from "committing" to high quality. There are two types of firms in the market, "inept" firms who can produce only low quality, and "competent" firms who have a choice between high and low quality. Firms occasionally leave the market, causing competent and inept potential entrants to compete for the right to inherit the departing firm's reputation. In a repeated interaction, with consumers receiving noisy signals of product quality, competent firms choose high quality in an attempt to distinguish themselves from inept firms. Competent firms find average reputations most valuable, in the sense that a competent firm is most likely to enter the market by purchasing an average reputation, in the hopes of building it into a good reputation, than either a very low reputation or a very high reputation. Inept firms, in contrast, find it profitable to either buy high reputations and deplete them or buy low reputations. Financial support from the National Science Foundation is gratefully acknowledged. Download Paper
We construct a model in which a firm's reputation must be built gradually, is managed, and dissipates gradually unless appropriately maintained. Consumers purchase an experience good from a firm whose unobserved effort affects the probability distribution of consumer utilities. Consumers observe private, noisy signals ( consumer utilities ) of the behavior of the firm, yielding a game of imperfect private monitoring. The standard approach to reputations introduces some "good" or "Stackelberg" firms into the model, with consumers ignorant of the type of the firm they face and with ordinary firms acquiring their reputations by masquerading as Stackelberg firms. In contrast, the key ingredient of our reputation model is the continual possibility that the ordinary or "competent" firm might be replaced by a "bad" or "inept" firm who never chooses the Stackelberg action. Competent firms then acquire their reputations by convincing consumers that they are not inept. Building a reputation is an exercise in separating one-self from inept firms who one is not, rather than pooling with Stackelberg firms who one would like to be. We investigate how a firm manages such a reputation, showing, among other features, that a competent firm may not always choose the most efficient effort level to distinguish itself from an inept one. Download Paper
We consider a market in which there are two types of workers, "red" and "green," where these labels have no direct payoff implications. Workers can choose to acquire costly skills. Skilled workers must search for firms with a job vacancy, while firms with vacancies also search for unemployed workers. A unique symmetric equilibrium exists in which firms ignore workers' colors. There may also exist an asymmetric equilibrium in which firms only search for green workers, more green than red workers acquire skills, skilled green workers receive higher wage rates than skilled red workers, and the unemployment rate is higher among skilled red than green workers, though there are more unemployed skilled green than red workers. Discrimination between ex ante identical individuals thus arises as an equilibrium phenomenon. Our analysis differs from previous models of discrimination in assuming that firms have perfect information about workers with whom they are matched, and strictly prefer to hire minority workers (contingent on meeting a worker), and in generating predictions concerning unemployment as well as wage rates. Download Paper