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Should we discount the far-distant future at its lowest possible rate?

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  • GOLLIER Christian

Abstract

In this paper, we elaborate on an idea initially developed by Weitzman (1998) that justifies taking the lowest possible discount rate for far-distant future cash flows. His argument relies on the arbitrary assumption that when the future rate of return of capital (RRC) is uncertain, one should invest in any project with a positive expected net present value. We examine an economy with a risk-averse representative agent facing an uncertain evolution of the RRC. In this context, we characterize the socially efficient stochastic consumption path, which allows us in turn to use the Ramsey rule to characterize the term structure of socially efficient discount rates. We show that Weitzman's claim is qualitatively correct if shocks on the RRC are persistent. On the contrary, in the absence of any serial correlation in the RRC, the term structure of discount rates should be flat. --

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Paper provided by LERNA, University of Toulouse in its series LERNA Working Papers with number 08.30.274.

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Date of creation: Nov 2008
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Handle: RePEc:ler:wpaper:08.30.274

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  1. Martin L. Weitzman, 2001. "Gamma Discounting," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(1), pages 260-271, March.
  2. Cameron Hepburn & Phoebe Koundouri & Ekaterini Panopoulou & Theologos Pantelidis, 2006. "Social Discounting Under Uncertainty: A cross-country comparison," The Institute for International Integration Studies Discussion Paper Series iiisdp177, IIIS.
  3. Christian Gollier & Phoebe Koundouri & Theologos Pantelidis, 2008. "Declining discount rates: Economic justifications and implications for long-run policy," Economic Policy, CEPR & CES & MSH, vol. 23, pages 757-795, October.
  4. Wolfgang Buchholz & Jan Schumacher, 2008. "Discounting the Long-Distant Future: A Simple Explanation for the Weitzman-Gollier-Puzzle," CESifo Working Paper Series 2357, CESifo Group Munich.
  5. Pizer, William & Newell, Richard, 2000. "Discounting the Distant Future: How Much Do Uncertain Rates Increase Valuations?," Discussion Papers dp-00-45, Resources For the Future.
  6. Pazner, Elisha A & Razin, Assaf, 1974. "A Model of Investment under Interest Rate Uncertainty," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 15(3), pages 798-802, October.
  7. Gollier, Christian, 2009. "Expected Net Present Value, Expected Net Future Value, and the Ramsey Rule," TSE Working Papers 09-049, Toulouse School of Economics (TSE).
  8. Hepburn, Cameron & Groom, Ben, 2007. "Gamma discounting and expected net future value," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 53(1), pages 99-109, January.
  9. Ekaterini Panopoulou & B. Groom & P. Koundouri & Theologos Pantelidis, 2005. "Discounting the distant future: How much does model selection affect the certainty equivalent rate?," Economics, Finance and Accounting Department Working Paper Series n1480105, Department of Economics, Finance and Accounting, National University of Ireland - Maynooth.
  10. Weitzman, Martin L., 1998. "Why the Far-Distant Future Should Be Discounted at Its Lowest Possible Rate," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 36(3), pages 201-208, November.
  11. Christian Gollier, 2005. "The Consumption-Based Determinants of the Term Structure of Discount Rates," CESifo Working Paper Series 1375, CESifo Group Munich.
  12. Gollier, Christian, 2004. "Maximizing the expected net future value as an alternative strategy to gamma discounting," Finance Research Letters, Elsevier, vol. 1(2), pages 85-89, June.
  13. Gollier, Christian, 2002. "Time Horizon and the Discount Rate," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 107(2), pages 463-473, December.
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Cited by:
  1. Weitzman, Martin L., 2010. "Risk-adjusted gamma discounting," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 60(1), pages 1-13, July.
  2. Christian Gollier, 2009. "Expected Net Present Value, Expected Net Future Value, and the Ramsey Rule," CESifo Working Paper Series 2643, CESifo Group Munich.
  3. Gollier, Christian & Weitzman, Martin L., 2010. "How should the distant future be discounted when discount rates are uncertain?," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 107(3), pages 350-353, June.
  4. Traeger, Christian P., 2013. "Discounting under uncertainty: Disentangling the Weitzman and the Gollier effect," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 66(3), pages 573-582.
  5. Nicole El Karoui & Caroline Hillairet & Mohamed Mrad, 2014. "Ramsey Rule with Progressive Utility in Long Term Yield Curves Modeling," Papers 1404.1895, arXiv.org.
  6. Nicole El Karoui & Mohamed Mrad & Caroline Hillairet, 2014. "Ramsey Rule with Progressive utility and Long Term Affine Yields Curves," Papers 1404.1913, arXiv.org.
  7. Iverson, Terrence, 2013. "Minimax regret discounting," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 66(3), pages 598-608.
  8. Nicole El Karoui & Caroline Hillairet & Mohamed Mrad, 2014. "Ramsey Rule with Progressive Utility in Long Term Yield Curves Modeling," Working Papers hal-00974815, HAL.
  9. Nicole El Karoui & Mohamed Mrad & Caroline Hillairet, 2014. "Ramsey Rule with Progressive utility and Long Term Affine Yields Curves," Working Papers hal-00974831, HAL.
  10. Freeman, Mark C., 2009. "Yes, we should discount the far-distant future at its lowest possible rate: a resolution of the Weitzman-Gollier puzzle," Economics Discussion Papers 2009-42, Kiel Institute for the World Economy.

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