IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/a/zbw/ifweej/7610.html
   My bibliography  Save this article

Should we Discount the Far-Distant Future at its Lowest Possible Rate?

Author

Listed:
  • 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.

Suggested Citation

  • Gollier, Christian, 2009. "Should we Discount the Far-Distant Future at its Lowest Possible Rate?," Economics - The Open-Access, Open-Assessment E-Journal (2007-2020), Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW), vol. 3, pages 1-14.
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:ifweej:7610
    DOI: 10.5018/economics-ejournal.ja.2009-25
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.5018/economics-ejournal.ja.2009-25
    Download Restriction: no

    File URL: https://www.econstor.eu/bitstream/10419/27544/1/economics_2009-25.pdf
    Download Restriction: no

    File URL: https://libkey.io/10.5018/economics-ejournal.ja.2009-25?utm_source=ideas
    LibKey link: if access is restricted and if your library uses this service, LibKey will redirect you to where you can use your library subscription to access this item
    ---><---

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Christian Gollier & Phoebe Koundouri & Theologos Pantelidis, 2008. "Declining discount rates: Economic justifications and implications for long-run policy [‘Regime switches in interest rates’]," Economic Policy, CEPR;CES;MSH, vol. 23(56), pages 758-795.
    2. 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.
    3. Hepburn, Cameron & Koundouri, Phoebe & Panopoulou, Ekaterini & Pantelidis, Theologos, 2009. "Social discounting under uncertainty: A cross-country comparison," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 57(2), pages 140-150, March.
    4. Martin L. Weitzman, 2001. "Gamma Discounting," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(1), pages 260-271, March.
    5. Gollier, Christian, 2004. "The Consumption-Based Determinants of the Term Structure of Discount Rates," IDEI Working Papers 296, Institut d'Économie Industrielle (IDEI), Toulouse.
    6. 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.
    7. Gollier, Christian, 2002. "Time Horizon and the Discount Rate," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 107(2), pages 463-473, December.
    8. Gollier, Christian, 2010. "Expected net present value, expected net future value, and the Ramsey rule," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 59(2), pages 142-148, March.
    9. Newell, Richard G. & Pizer, William A., 2003. "Discounting the distant future: how much do uncertain rates increase valuations?," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 46(1), pages 52-71, July.
    10. Wolfgang Buchholz & Jan Schumacher, 2008. "Discounting the Long-Distant Future: A Simple Explanation for the Weitzman-Gollier-Puzzle," CESifo Working Paper Series 2357, CESifo.
    11. Elisha A. Pazner & Assaf Razin, 1976. "On Expected Present Value Vs. Expected Future Value: Further Remarks," Discussion Papers 196, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
    12. Phoebe Koundouri & Theologos Pantelidis & Ben Groom & Ekaterini Panopoulou, 2007. "Discounting the distant future: How much does model selection affect the certainty equivalent rate?," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 22(3), pages 641-656.
    13. 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.
    14. 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.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
    as


    Cited by:

    1. Traeger, Christian P., 2012. "What's the Rate? Disentangling the Weitzman and the Gollier Effect," CUDARE Working Papers 121932, University of California, Berkeley, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.
    2. Patrice Loisel & Marielle Brunette & Stéphane Couture, 2020. "Insurance and Forest Rotation Decisions Under Storm Risk," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 76(2), pages 347-367, July.
    3. Gollier, Christian, 2010. "Expected net present value, expected net future value, and the Ramsey rule," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 59(2), pages 142-148, March.
    4. Nicole El Karoui & Caroline Hillairet & Mohamed Mrad & El Karoui & Hillairet Caroline & Mrad Mohamed, 2014. "Ramsey Rule with Progressive Utility in Long Term Yield Curves Modeling," Working Papers hal-00974815, HAL.
    5. Freeman, Mark C. & Groom, Ben, 2016. "How certain are we about the certainty-equivalent long term social discount rate?," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 79(C), pages 152-168.
    6. Iverson, Terrence, 2013. "Minimax regret discounting," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 66(3), pages 598-608.
    7. Freeman, Mark C. & Groom, Ben & Panopoulou, Ekaterini & Pantelidis, Theologos, 2015. "Declining discount rates and the Fisher Effect: Inflated past, discounted future?," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 73(C), pages 32-49.
    8. Weitzman, Martin L., 2010. "Risk-adjusted gamma discounting," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 60(1), pages 1-13, July.
    9. 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.
    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 (IfW).
    11. Nicole El Karoui & Caroline Hillairet & Mohamed Mrad, 2014. "Ramsey Rule with Progressive Utility in Long Term Yield Curves Modeling," Papers 1404.1895, arXiv.org.
    12. 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.
    13. Freeman, Mark C. & Groom, Ben, 2016. "How certain are we about the certainty-equivalent longterm social discount rate?," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 67258, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    14. Fridstrøm, Lasse & Østli, Vegard, 2017. "The vehicle purchase tax as a climate policy instrument," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 96(C), pages 168-189.
    15. Mark C. Freeman & Ben Groom, 2015. "Positively Gamma Discounting: Combining the Opinions of Experts on the Social Discount Rate," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 125(585), pages 1015-1024, June.
    16. Nicole El Karoui & Mohamed Mrad & Caroline Hillairet, 2014. "Ramsey Rule with Progressive utility and Long Term Affine Yields Curves," Papers 1404.1913, arXiv.org.
    17. Nicole El Karoui & Mohamed Mrad & Caroline Hillairet, 2014. "Ramsey Rule with Progressive utility and Long Term Affine Yields Curves," Working Papers hal-00974831, HAL.

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Gollier, Christian, 2010. "Expected net present value, expected net future value, and the Ramsey rule," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 59(2), pages 142-148, March.
    2. Christian Gollier, 2008. "Discounting with fat-tailed economic growth," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 37(2), pages 171-186, December.
    3. 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 (IfW).
    4. Freeman, Mark C. & Groom, Ben & Panopoulou, Ekaterini & Pantelidis, Theologos, 2015. "Declining discount rates and the Fisher Effect: Inflated past, discounted future?," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 73(C), pages 32-49.
    5. 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.
    6. Gollier, Christian, 2016. "Gamma discounters are short-termist," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 142(C), pages 83-90.
    7. Rick van der Ploeg, 2020. "Discounting and Climate Policy," CESifo Working Paper Series 8441, CESifo.
    8. Birol, Ekin & Koundouri, Phoebe & Kountouris, Yiannis, 2010. "Assessing the economic viability of alternative water resources in water-scarce regions: Combining economic valuation, cost-benefit analysis and discounting," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(4), pages 839-847, February.
    9. Cropper, Maureen, 2012. "How Should Benefits and Costs Be Discounted in an Intergenerational Context?," Discussion Papers dp-12-42, Resources For the Future.
    10. Katz, Yuri A., 2017. "Value of the distant future: Model-independent results," Physica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications, Elsevier, vol. 466(C), pages 269-276.
    11. Wolfgang Buchholz, 2014. "Discounting in an Uncertain World - Disentangling the Debate on the Weitzman-Gollier Puzzle," CESifo Working Paper Series 4967, CESifo.
    12. Arrow, Kenneth J. & Cropper, Maureen L. & Gollier, Christian & Groom, Ben & Heal, Geoffrey M. & Newell, Richard G. & Nordhaus, William D. & Pindyck, Robert S. & Pizer, William A. & Portney, Paul R. & , 2012. "How Should Benefits and Costs Be Discounted in an Intergenerational Context? The Views of an Expert Panel," Discussion Papers dp-12-53, Resources For the Future.
    13. Lanlan Luo & Shou Chen & Ziran Zou, 2020. "Determining the Generalized Discount Rate for Risky Projects," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 77(1), pages 143-158, September.
    14. Freeman, Mark C. & Groom, Ben, 2016. "How certain are we about the certainty-equivalent long term social discount rate?," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 79(C), pages 152-168.
    15. Freeman, Mark C., 2010. "Yes, we should discount the far-distant future at its lowest possible rate: A resolution of the Weitzman-Gollier puzzle," Economics - The Open-Access, Open-Assessment E-Journal (2007-2020), Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW), vol. 4, pages 1-21.
    16. Kollenberg, Sascha & Taschini, Luca, 2016. "Emissions trading systems with cap adjustments," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 80(C), pages 20-36.
    17. Hepburn, Cameron & Koundouri, Phoebe & Panopoulou, Ekaterini & Pantelidis, Theologos, 2009. "Social discounting under uncertainty: A cross-country comparison," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 57(2), pages 140-150, March.
    18. Knoke, Thomas & Paul, Carola & Härtl, Fabian, 2017. "A critical view on benefit-cost analyses of silvicultural management options with declining discount rates," Forest Policy and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 83(C), pages 58-69.
    19. Cameron Hepburn & Greer Gosnell, 2014. "Evaluating impacts in the distant future: cost–benefit analysis, discounting and the alternatives," Chapters, in: Giles Atkinson & Simon Dietz & Eric Neumayer & Matthew Agarwala (ed.), Handbook of Sustainable Development, chapter 9, pages 140-159, Edward Elgar Publishing.
    20. Phoebe Koundouri & Theologos Pantelidis & Ben Groom & Ekaterini Panopoulou, 2007. "Discounting the distant future: How much does model selection affect the certainty equivalent rate?," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 22(3), pages 641-656.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Discount rate; term structure; certainty equivalent rate; Ramsey rule; sustainable development;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • E43 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Money and Interest Rates - - - Interest Rates: Determination, Term Structure, and Effects
    • G12 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Asset Pricing; Trading Volume; Bond Interest Rates
    • Q51 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Valuation of Environmental Effects

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:zbw:ifweej:7610. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: . General contact details of provider: https://edirc.repec.org/data/iwkiede.html .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a bibliographic reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics (email available below). General contact details of provider: https://edirc.repec.org/data/iwkiede.html .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.