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Costly transparency

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  • Fox, Justin
  • Van Weelden, Richard
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    Abstract

    We consider whether a career-minded expert would make better decisions if the principal could observe the consequences of the expert's action. The previous literature has found that this “transparency of consequence” can only improve the efficacy of the expert's decision making. We show, however, that this conclusion is very sensitive to the specified cost structure: if learning the consequences of the expert's action makes the expert more likely to choose the action most likely to correspond to the true state of the world, when costs are asymmetric, this can be associated with a decrease in the principal's expected welfare. In addition, we show that, when the prior on the state of the world is sufficiently strong, if the principal benefits from learning the consequences of the expert's action, her utility is higher if she observes only the consequences and not the action taken. For such priors, the optimal transparency regime will involve either the principal observing only the expert's action or only the consequences of the expert's action: it will never be optimal to observe both. We illustrate these results with examples from finance and public policymaking.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Public Economics.

    Volume (Year): 96 (2012)
    Issue (Month): 1 ()
    Pages: 142-150

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:pubeco:v:96:y:2012:i:1:p:142-150

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    Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/505578

    Related research

    Keywords: Transparency; Reputation; Herding; Principal-agent; Welfare;

    References

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    1. Cho, In-Koo & Kreps, David M, 1987. "Signaling Games and Stable Equilibria," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 102(2), pages 179-221, May.
    2. Adam Brandenburger & Ben Polak, 1996. "When Managers Cover Their Posteriors: Making the Decisions the Market Wants to See," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 27(3), pages 523-541, Autumn.
    3. Suurmond, Guido & Swank, Otto H. & Visser, Bauke, 2004. "On the bad reputation of reputational concerns," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(12), pages 2817-2838, December.
    4. Andrea Prat, 2004. "The wrong kind of transparency," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 24712, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    5. Terrance Odean, 1998. "Volume, Volatility, Price, and Profit When All Traders Are Above Average," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 53(6), pages 1887-1934, December.
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    8. Gilat Levy, 2004. "Anti-herding and strategic consultation," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 541, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    9. Levy, Gilat, 2004. "Anti-herding and strategic consultation," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 48(3), pages 503-525, June.
    10. Bengt Holmstrom, 1999. "Managerial Incentive Problems: A Dynamic Perspective," NBER Working Papers 6875, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Richard H. Thaler, 2000. "From Homo Economicus to Homo Sapiens," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 14(1), pages 133-141, Winter.
    12. Milbourn, Todd T & Shockley, Richard L & Thakor, Anjan V, 2001. "Managerial Career Concerns and Investments in Information," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 32(2), pages 334-51, Summer.
    13. Fox, Justin & Van Weelden, Richard, 2010. "Partisanship and the effectiveness of oversight," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(9-10), pages 674-687, October.
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    Cited by:
    1. Garcia-Martinez, Jose A., 2013. "The Perverse Incentive of Knowing the Truth," MPRA Paper 43825, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Volker Hahn, 2013. "Committee Design with Endogenous Participation," Working Paper Series of the Department of Economics, University of Konstanz 2013-12, Department of Economics, University of Konstanz.
    3. Prato, Carlo & Wolton, Stephane, 2014. "The Voters' Curses: The Upsides and Downsides of Political Engagement," MPRA Paper 53482, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    4. Fu, Qiang & Li, Ming, 2014. "Reputation-concerned policy makers and institutional status quo bias," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 110(C), pages 15-25.
    5. César Martinelli & John Duggan, 2014. "The Political Economy of Dynamic Elections: A Survey and Some New Results," Working Papers 1403, Centro de Investigacion Economica, ITAM.

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