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Does Evolution Solve the Hold-Up Problem?

  • Ellingsen, Tore
  • Robles, Jack

We examine the theoretical foundations of the hold-up problem. At a first stage, one agent decides on the level of a relationship specific invesment. There is no contract, so at a second stage the agent must bargain with a trading partner over the surplus generated by the investment. We show that the conventional underinvestment result hinges crucially both on the assumed bargaining game and on hte choice of equilibrium concept. In particular, we prove the following two results. (i) If bargaining proceeds according to the Nash demand game, any investment level is subgame perfect, but only efficient oucomes are evolutionarily stable. (ii) If bargaining proceeds according to the ultimatum game (with the trading partner as proposer,) only the minimal investment level is subgame perfect, but any investment level is evolutionarily stable.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Games and Economic Behavior.

Volume (Year): 39 (2002)
Issue (Month): 1 (April)
Pages: 28-53

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Handle: RePEc:eee:gamebe:v:39:y:2002:i:1:p:28-53
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  1. G. Noldeke & L. Samuelson, 2010. "An Evolutionary Analysis of Backward and Forward Induction," Levine's Working Paper Archive 538, David K. Levine.
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  8. Ellingsen, Tore & Johannesson, Magnus, 2000. "Is There a Hold-up Problem?," SSE/EFI Working Paper Series in Economics and Finance 357, Stockholm School of Economics.
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  22. Gale, John & Binmore, Kenneth G. & Samuelson, Larry, 1995. "Learning to be imperfect: The ultimatum game," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 8(1), pages 56-90.
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  25. Young, H Peyton, 1993. "The Evolution of Conventions," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 61(1), pages 57-84, January.
  26. Hackett, Steven C, 1994. "Is Relational Exchange Possible in the Absence of Reputations and Repeated Contact?," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 10(2), pages 360-89, October.
  27. Klein, Benjamin & Crawford, Robert G & Alchian, Armen A, 1978. "Vertical Integration, Appropriable Rents, and the Competitive Contracting Process," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 21(2), pages 297-326, October.
  28. Eric Maskin & Jean Tirole, 1999. "Unforeseen Contingencies and Incomplete Contracts," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 66(1), pages 83-114.
  29. Binmore, K. & Samuelson, L. & Gale, J., 1993. "Learning to be Imperfect: The Ultimatum Game," Working papers 9325, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems.
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  31. Grout, Paul A, 1984. "Investment and Wages in the Absence of Binding Contracts: A Nash Bargining Approach," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 52(2), pages 449-60, March.
  32. Samuelson Larry, 1994. "Stochastic Stability in Games with Alternative Best Replies," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 64(1), pages 35-65, October.
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