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Decentralization, Communication, and the Origins of Fluctuations

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  • George-Marios Angeletos
  • Jennifer La'O

Abstract

We consider a class of convex, competitive, neoclassical economies in which agents are rational; the equilibrium is unique; there is no room for randomization devices; and there are no shocks to preferences, technologies, endowments, or other fundamentals. In short, we rule out every known source of macroeconomic volatility. And yet, we show that these economies can be ridden with large and persistent fluctuations in equilibrium allocations and prices. These fluctuations emerge because decentralized trading impedes communication and, in so doing, opens the door to self-fulfilling beliefs despite the uniqueness of the equilibrium. In line with Keynesian thinking, these fluctuations may be attributed to "coordination failures" and "animal spirits". They may also take the form of "fads", or waves of optimism and pessimism that spread in the population like contagious diseases. Yet, these ostensibly pathological phenomena emerge at the heart of the neoclassical paradigm and require neither a deviation from rationality, nor multiple equilibria, nor even a divergence between private and social motives.
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Suggested Citation

  • George-Marios Angeletos & Jennifer La'O, 2011. "Decentralization, Communication, and the Origins of Fluctuations," Levine's Working Paper Archive 786969000000000111, David K. Levine.
  • Handle: RePEc:cla:levarc:786969000000000111
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Benhabib, Jess & Farmer, Roger E.A., 1999. "Indeterminacy and sunspots in macroeconomics," Handbook of Macroeconomics,in: J. B. Taylor & M. Woodford (ed.), Handbook of Macroeconomics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 6, pages 387-448 Elsevier.
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    3. Nir Jaimovich & Sergio Rebelo, 2009. "Can News about the Future Drive the Business Cycle?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(4), pages 1097-1118, September.
    4. Manuel Amador & Pierre-Olivier Weill, 2010. "Learning from Prices: Public Communication and Welfare," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 118(5), pages 866-907.
    5. George-Marios Angeletos & Jennifer La'O, 2010. "Noisy Business Cycles," NBER Chapters,in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 2009, Volume 24, pages 319-378 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Olivier J. Blanchard & Jean-Paul L'Huillier & Guido Lorenzoni, 2013. "News, Noise, and Fluctuations: An Empirical Exploration," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(7), pages 3045-3070, December.
    7. George-Marios Angeletos & Alessandro Pavan, 2009. "Policy with Dispersed Information," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 7(1), pages 11-60, March.
    8. Bartosz Mackowiak & Mirko Wiederholt, 2009. "Optimal Sticky Prices under Rational Inattention," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(3), pages 769-803, June.
    9. Ricardo Lagos & Randall Wright, 2005. "A Unified Framework for Monetary Theory and Policy Analysis," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 113(3), pages 463-484, June.
    10. George A. Akerlof, 2009. "How Human Psychology Drives the Economy and Why It Matters," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 91(5), pages 1175-1175.
    11. Guesnerie, R. & Woodford, M., 1991. "Endogenous Fluctuations," DELTA Working Papers 91-10, DELTA (Ecole normale supérieure).
    12. Hellwig, Christian & Venkateswaran, Venky, 2009. "Setting the right prices for the wrong reasons," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(S), pages 57-77.
    13. George-Marios Angeletos & Alessandro Pavan, 2007. "Efficient Use of Information and Social Value of Information," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 75(4), pages 1103-1142, July.
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    16. Cass, David & Shell, Karl, 1983. "Do Sunspots Matter?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 91(2), pages 193-227, April.
    17. Xavier Vives, 2007. "Information and Learning in Markets," Levine's Bibliography 122247000000001520, UCLA Department of Economics.
    18. Narayana R. Kocherlakota, 2010. "Modern macroeconomic models as tools for economic policy," The Region, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, issue May, pages 5-21.
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    Cited by:

    1. George-Marios Angeletos & Jennifer La'O, 2011. "Optimal Monetary Policy with Informational Frictions," NBER Working Papers 17525, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Marta Areosa & Waldyr Areosa, 2012. "Asset Prices and Monetary Policy – A sticky-dispersed information model," Working Papers Series 285, Central Bank of Brazil, Research Department.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D52 - Microeconomics - - General Equilibrium and Disequilibrium - - - Incomplete Markets
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • E32 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Business Fluctuations; Cycles

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