Distinguished Lecture on Economics in Government: The Private Uses of Public Interests: Incentives and Institutions
[Joseph Stiglitz was a member of the Council of Economic Advisers from 1993-95, and chairman of the CEA from 1995 through February 1997.] Today, I want to share with you some of my thoughts about the possibilities and limitations of government. These thoughts are focused around a simple question: Why is it so difficult to implement even Pareto improvements? Working in Washington, I quickly saw that although a few potential changes were strictly Pareto improvements, there were many other changes that would hurt only a small, narrowly defined group (for example, increasing the efficiency of the legal system might hurt lawyers). But if everyone except a narrowly defined special interest group could be shown to benefit, surely the change should be made. In practice, however, "almost everyone" was rarely sufficient in government policy-making and often such near-Pareto improvements did not occur. My major theme will be to provide a set of explanations for why this might be so. I shall put forward four hypotheses in this lecture, each of which provides part of the explanation for the failure in at least one instance of a proposed Pareto improvement. These hypotheses, like much of the literature on government failures, focus on the role of incentives: how misaligned incentives can induce government officials to take actions that are not, in any sense, in the public interest.
Volume (Year): 12 (1998)
Issue (Month): 2 (Spring)
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References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- John Vickers & George Yarrow, 1988. "Privatization: An Economic Analysis," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262720116, June.
- Greenwald, Bruce C & Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1986. "Externalities in Economies with Imperfect Information and Incomplete Markets," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 101(2), pages 229-64, May.
- Edward P. Lazear & Sherwin Rosen, 1979.
"Rank-Order Tournaments as Optimum Labor Contracts,"
NBER Working Papers
0401, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Tversky, Amos & Kahneman, Daniel, 1991. "Loss Aversion in Riskless Choice: A Reference-Dependent Model," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 106(4), pages 1039-61, November.
- Joseph Farrell., 1987.
"Information and the Coase Theorem,"
Economics Working Papers
8747, University of California at Berkeley.
- Isham, Jonathan & Narayan, Deepa & Pritchett, Lant, 1995. "Does Participation Improve Performance? Establishing Causality with Subjective Data," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 9(2), pages 175-200, May.
- Akerlof, George A, 1970. "The Market for 'Lemons': Quality Uncertainty and the Market Mechanism," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 84(3), pages 488-500, August.
- Joseph E. Stiglitz, 1996. "Whither Socialism?," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262691825, June.
- Stanley Fischer, 1996. "Why are central banks pursuing long-run price stability?," Proceedings - Economic Policy Symposium - Jackson Hole, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, pages 7-34.
- Nalebuff, Barry J & Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1983. "Information, Competition, and Markets," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 73(2), pages 278-83, May.
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