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Decentralization, Communication, and the Origins of Fluctuations

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  • George-Marios Angeletos
  • Jennifer La'O

Abstract

We consider a class of convex, competitive, neoclassical economies in which agents are rational; the equilibrium is unique; there is no room for randomization devices; and there are no shocks to preferences, technologies, endowments, or other fundamentals. In short, we rule out every known source of macroeconomic volatility. And yet, we show that these economies can be ridden with large and persistent fluctuations in equilibrium allocations and prices. These fluctuations emerge because decentralized trading impedes communication and, in so doing, opens the door to self-fulfilling beliefs despite the uniqueness of the equilibrium. In line with Keynesian thinking, these fluctuations may be attributed to “coordination failures” and “animal spirits”. They may also take the form of “fads”, or waves of optimism and pessimism that spread in the population like contagious diseases. Yet, these ostensibly pathological phenomena emerge at the heart of the neoclassical paradigm and require neither a deviation from rationality, nor multiple equilibria, nor even a divergence between private and social motives.

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Paper provided by David K. Levine in its series Levine's Working Paper Archive with number 786969000000000111.

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Date of creation: 22 May 2011
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Handle: RePEc:cla:levarc:786969000000000111

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  1. Paul Beaudry & Franck Portier, 2006. "Stock Prices, News, and Economic Fluctuations," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(4), pages 1293-1307, September.
  2. Benhabib, J. & Farmer, R.E.A, 1991. "Indeterminacy and Increasing Returns," Papers 165, Cambridge - Risk, Information & Quantity Signals.
  3. Ricardo Lagos & Randall Wright, 2005. "A Unified Framework for Monetary Theory and Policy Analysis," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 113(3), pages 463-484, June.
  4. Nir Jaimovich & Sergio Rebelo, 2006. "Can News About the Future Drive the Business Cycle?," NBER Working Papers 12537, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Manuel Amador & Pierre Olivier Weill, 2008. "Learning from Prices: Public Communication and Welfare," 2008 Meeting Papers 390, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  6. George A. Akerlof, 2009. "How Human Psychology Drives the Economy and Why It Matters," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 91(5), pages 1175-1175.
  7. Bartosz Mackowiak & Mirko Wiederholt, 2004. "Optimal Sticky Prices under Rational Inattention," SFB 649 Discussion Papers SFB649DP2005-040, Sonderforschungsbereich 649, Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany, revised Jul 2005.
  8. Guido Lorenzoni, 2006. "A Theory of Demand Shocks," NBER Working Papers 12477, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Alessandro Pavan & George-Marios Angeletos, 2008. "Policy with Dispersed Information," 2008 Meeting Papers 1103, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  10. Olivier J. Blanchard & Jean-Paul L'Huillier & Guido Lorenzoni, 2013. "News, Noise, and Fluctuations: An Empirical Exploration," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(7), pages 3045-70, December.
  11. Benhabib, Jess & Farmer, Roger E.A., 1999. "Indeterminacy and sunspots in macroeconomics," Handbook of Macroeconomics, in: J. B. Taylor & M. Woodford (ed.), Handbook of Macroeconomics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 6, pages 387-448 Elsevier.
  12. Cass, David & Shell, Karl, 1983. "Do Sunspots Matter?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 91(2), pages 193-227, April.
  13. Amador, Manuel & Weill, Pierre-Olivier, 2006. "Learning from Private and Public Observation of Other's Actions," MPRA Paper 109, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  14. Guesnerie, R. & Woodford, M., 1991. "Endogenous Fluctuations," DELTA Working Papers 91-10, DELTA (Ecole normale supérieure).
  15. Xavier Vives, 2007. "Information and Learning in Markets," Levine's Bibliography 122247000000001520, UCLA Department of Economics.
  16. George-Marios Angeletos & Alessandro Pavan, 2007. "Efficient Use of Information and Social Value of Information," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 75(4), pages 1103-1142, 07.
  17. Venky Venkateswaran & Christian Hellwig, 2009. "Setting The Right Prices for the Wrong Reasons," 2009 Meeting Papers 260, Society for Economic Dynamics.
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Cited by:
  1. Marta Areosa & Waldyr Areosa, 2012. "Asset Prices and Monetary Policy – A sticky-dispersed information model," Working Papers Series 285, Central Bank of Brazil, Research Department.
  2. W. Brian Arthur, 2013. "Complexity Economics: A Different Framework for Economic Thought," INET Research Notes 33, Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET).
  3. George-Marios Angeletos & Jennifer La'O, 2011. "Optimal Monetary Policy with Informational Frictions," NBER Working Papers 17525, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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