IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this paper

Markets Versus Governments: Political Economy of Mechanisms

  • Daron Acemoglu
  • Michael Golosov
  • Aleh Tsyvinski

We study the optimal Mirrlees taxation problem in a dynamic economy with idiosyncratic (productivity or preference) shocks. In contrast to the standard approach, which implicitly assumes that the mechanism is operated by a benevolent planner with full commitment power, we assume that any centralized mechanism can only be operated by a self-interested ruler/government without commitment power, who can therefore misuse the resources and the information it collects. An important result of our analysis is that there will be truthful revelation along the equilibrium path (for all positive discount factors), which shows that truth-telling mechanisms can be used despite the commitment problems and the different interests of the government. Using this tool, we show that if the government is as patient as the agents, the best sustainable mechanism leads to an asymptotic allocation where the aggregate distortions arising from political economy disappear. In contrast, when the government is less patient than the citizens, there are positive aggregate distortions and positive aggregate capital taxes even asymptotically. Under some additional assumptions on preferences, these results generalize to the case when the government is benevolent but unable to commit to future tax policies. We conclude by providing a brief comparison of centralized mechanisms operated by self-interested rulers to anonymous markets.

(This abstract was borrowed from another version of this item.)

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by UCLA Department of Economics in its series Levine's Bibliography with number 321307000000000032.

in new window

Date of creation: 14 May 2006
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:cla:levrem:321307000000000032
Contact details of provider: Web page:

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.:

as in new window
  1. J. A. Mirrlees, 1971. "An Exploration in the Theory of Optimum Income Taxation," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 38(2), pages 175-208.
  2. Christopher Sleet, 2004. "Credible social insurance," 2004 Meeting Papers 75, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  3. Harald Uhlig, 2010. "A Law of Large Numbers for Large Economies," Levine's Working Paper Archive 2070, David K. Levine.
  4. Debraj Ray, 2002. "The Time Structure of Self-Enforcing Agreements," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 70(2), pages 547-582, March.
  5. Benveniste, L M & Scheinkman, J A, 1979. "On the Differentiability of the Value Function in Dynamic Models of Economics," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(3), pages 727-32, May.
  6. Chamley, Christophe, 1986. "Optimal Taxation of Capital Income in General Equilibrium with Infinite Lives," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 54(3), pages 607-22, May.
  7. Xavier Freixas & Roger Guesnerie & Jean Tirole, 1985. "Planning under Incomplete Information and the Ratchet Effect," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 52(2), pages 173-191.
  8. Narayana R. Kocherlakota, 2005. "Zero Expected Wealth Taxes: A Mirrlees Approach to Dynamic Optimal Taxation," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 73(5), pages 1587-1621, 09.
  9. V. V. Chari & Patrick J. Kehoe, 1993. "Sustainable Plans and Mutual Default," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 60(1), pages 175-195.
  10. Battaglini, Marco & Coate, Stephen, 2008. "Pareto efficient income taxation with stochastic abilities," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(3-4), pages 844-868, April.
  11. Oliver Hart & Andrei Shleifer & Robert W. Vishny, 1997. "The Proper Scope of Government: Theory and an Application to Prisons," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(4), pages 1127-1161.
  12. Fudenberg, Drew & Levine, David I & Maskin, Eric, 1994. "The Folk Theorem with Imperfect Public Information," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 62(5), pages 997-1039, September.
  13. Kevin Roberts, 1984. "The Theoretical Limits to Redistribution," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 51(2), pages 177-195.
  14. Green, Jerry & Laffont, Jean-Jacques, 1977. "Characterization of Satisfactory Mechanisms for the Revelation of Preferences for Public Goods," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 45(2), pages 427-38, March.
  15. Prescott, Edward C & Townsend, Robert M, 1984. "General Competitive Analysis in an Economy with Private Information," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 25(1), pages 1-20, February.
  16. Ausubel, Lawrence M & Deneckere, Raymond J, 1989. "Reputation in Bargaining and Durable Goods Monopoly," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 57(3), pages 511-31, May.
  17. Roberts, Kevin W. S., 1977. "Voting over income tax schedules," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 8(3), pages 329-340, December.
  18. Chari, V V & Kehoe, Patrick J, 1990. "Sustainable Plans," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(4), pages 783-802, August.
  19. Bester, Helmut & Strausz, Roland, 2001. "Contracting with Imperfect Commitment and the Revelation Principle: The Single Agent Case," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 69(4), pages 1077-98, July.
  20. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson, 2003. "Unbundling Institutions," NBER Working Papers 9934, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  21. Chari, V. V., 2000. "Limits of Markets and Limits of Governments: An Introduction to a Symposium on Political Economy," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 94(1), pages 1-6, September.
  22. Bengt Holmstrom & Roger B. Myerson, 1981. "Efficient and Durable Decision Rules with Incomplete Information," Discussion Papers 495, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  23. Larry M. Ausubel & Raymond J. Deneckere, 1989. "Reputation in Bargaining and Durable Goods Monopoly," Levine's Working Paper Archive 201, David K. Levine.
  24. Harris Milton & Townsend, Robert M, 1981. "Resource Allocation under Asymmetric Information," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 49(1), pages 33-64, January.
  25. Christopher Phelan & Robert M. Townsend, 1991. "Computing Multi-Period, Information-Constrained Optima," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 58(5), pages 853-881.
  26. Daron Acemoglu, 2005. "Politics and Economics in Weak and Strong States," NBER Working Papers 11275, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  27. Christopher Phelan & Robert M Townsend, 2010. "Computing Multi-Period, Information Constrained Optima," Levine's Working Paper Archive 117, David K. Levine.
  28. Daron Acemoglu, 2006. "Modeling Inefficient Institutions," NBER Working Papers 11940, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  29. Daron Acemoglu & Michael Kremer & Atif Mian, 2003. "Incentives in Markets, Firms and Governments," NBER Working Papers 9802, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  30. Christopher Phelan & Ennio Stacchetti, 2001. "Sequential Equilibria in a Ramsey Tax Model," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 69(6), pages 1491-1518, November.
  31. Kenneth L. Judd, 1982. "Redistributive Taxation in a Simple Perfect Foresight Model," Discussion Papers 572, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  32. Thomas, Jonathan & Worrall, Tim, 1990. "Income fluctuation and asymmetric information: An example of a repeated principal-agent problem," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 51(2), pages 367-390, August.
  33. North, Douglass C. & Weingast, Barry R., 1989. "Constitutions and Commitment: The Evolution of Institutions Governing Public Choice in Seventeenth-Century England," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 49(04), pages 803-832, December.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is featured on the following reading lists or Wikipedia pages:

  1. Canadian Macro Study Group

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:cla:levrem:321307000000000032. 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: (David K. Levine)

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 references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link 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 profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

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

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.