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Bounded Rationality and Incomplete Contracts


  • Luca Anderlini
  • Leonardo Felli


This paper explores the link between boundedly rational behaviour and incomplete contracts. The bounded rationality of the agents in our world is embodied in a constraint that the contracts they write must be algorithmic in nature. We start with a definition of contract incompleteness that seems both appealing and widely applicable. Our first task is then to show that, by itself, the algorithmic nature of contracts is not enough to generate genuinely incomplete contracts in equilibrium. As in Anderlini and Felli (1994), we call this the Approximation Result. We then consider contractual situations in which the complexity costs of a contract are explicitly taken into accoaunt. We consider a broad (axiomatically defined) class of complexity measures and in this framework we show that incomplete contracts obtain in equilibrium. We also extensively discuss some recent literature directly related to the results reported here

Suggested Citation

  • Luca Anderlini & Leonardo Felli, 2000. "Bounded Rationality and Incomplete Contracts," STICERD - Theoretical Economics Paper Series 407, Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines, LSE.
  • Handle: RePEc:cep:stitep:407

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Hart, Oliver D & Moore, John, 1988. "Incomplete Contracts and Renegotiation," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 56(4), pages 755-785, July.
    2. Hart, Oliver & Moore, John, 1990. "Property Rights and the Nature of the Firm," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(6), pages 1119-1158, December.
    3. Anderlini, Luca & Felli, Leonardo, 1998. "Describability and agency problems," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 42(1), pages 35-59, January.
    4. Aghion, Philippe & Tirole, Jean, 1997. "Formal and Real Authority in Organizations," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 105(1), pages 1-29, February.
    5. Oliver Hart & John Moore, 1999. "Foundations of Incomplete Contracts," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 66(1), pages 115-138.
    6. P. Battigalli & G. Maggi, 2000. "Imperfect Contracting," Princeton Economic Theory Papers 00s11, Economics Department, Princeton University.
    7. Grossman, Sanford J & Hart, Oliver D, 1986. "The Costs and Benefits of Ownership: A Theory of Vertical and Lateral Integration," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 94(4), pages 691-719, August.
    8. Pierpaolo Battigalli & Giovanni Maggi, 2002. "Rigidity, Discretion, and the Costs of Writing Contracts," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(4), pages 798-817, September.
    9. Luca Anderlini & Leonardo Felli, 1994. "Incomplete Written Contracts: Undescribable States of Nature," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 109(4), pages 1085-1124.
    10. Luca Anderlini & Leonardo Felli, 1999. "Incomplete Contracts and Complexity Costs," Theory and Decision, Springer, vol. 46(1), pages 23-50, February.
    11. Raghuram G. Rajan & Luigi Zingales, 1998. "Power in a Theory of the Firm," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 113(2), pages 387-432.
    12. Jean Tirole, 1999. "Incomplete Contracts: Where Do We Stand?," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 67(4), pages 741-782, July.
    13. Nabil I. Al-Najjar & Luca Anderlini & Leonardo Felli, 2006. "Undescribable Events," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 73(4), pages 849-868.
    14. Ilya Segal, 1999. "Complexity and Renegotiation: A Foundation for Incomplete Contracts," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 66(1), pages 57-82.
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    Cited by:

    1. Fares, M’hand, 2005. "Quels fondements à l’incomplétude des contrats?," L'Actualité Economique, Société Canadienne de Science Economique, vol. 81(3), pages 535-555, Septembre.
    2. Polydoropoulou, Amalia & Roumboutsos, Athena, 2009. "Evaluating the impact of decision making during construction on transport project outcome," Evaluation and Program Planning, Elsevier, vol. 32(4), pages 369-380, November.
    3. Lorenzo Sacconi, 2001. "Incomplete contracts and corporate ethics: a game theoretical model under fuzzy information," LIUC Papers in Ethics, Law and Economics 91, Cattaneo University (LIUC).

    More about this item


    Incomplete contracts; bounded rationality; complexity costs;

    JEL classification:

    • C69 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Mathematical Methods; Programming Models; Mathematical and Simulation Modeling - - - Other
    • D81 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Criteria for Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty
    • D89 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Other


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