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

Promises Promises

In the classical general equilibrium model, agents keep all their promises, every good is traded, and competition prevents any agent from earning superior returns on investments in financial markets. In this paper I introduce the age-old problem of broken promises into the general equilibrium model, and I find that a new market dynamic emerges. Given the legal system and institutions, market forces of supply and demand will establish the collateral levels which are required to secure promises. Since physical collateral will typically be scarce, these collateral levels will be set so low that there is bound to be some default. Many kinds of promises will not be traded, because that also economizes on collateral. Scarce collateral thus creates a mechanism for determining endogenously which assets will be traded, thereby helping to resolve a long standing puzzle in general equilibrium theory. Finally, I shall show that under suitable conditions, in rational expectations equilibrium, some investors will be able to earn higher than normal returns on their investments. The legal system, in conjunction with the market, will be under constant pressure to expand the potential sources of collateral. This will lead to market innovation. I illustrate the theoretical points in this paper with some of my experiences on Wall Street as director of fixed income research at the firm of Kidder Peabody.

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 Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University in its series Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers with number 1143.

in new window

Length: 32 pages
Date of creation: Dec 1996
Publication status: Published in W.B. Arthur, S.N. Durlauf and D.A. Lane, eds., The Economy as an Evolving Complex System II, Addison-Wesley, 1997, pp. 285-320
Handle: RePEc:cwl:cwldpp:1143
Note: CFP 1057.
Contact details of provider: Postal:
Yale University, Box 208281, New Haven, CT 06520-8281 USA

Phone: (203) 432-3702
Fax: (203) 432-6167
Web page:

More information through EDIRC

Order Information: Postal: Cowles Foundation, Yale University, Box 208281, New Haven, CT 06520-8281 USA

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.:

in new window

  1. Kiyotaki, Nobuhiro & Moore, John, 1997. "Credit Cycles," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 105(2), pages 211-248, April.
  2. Zame, William R, 1993. "Efficiency and the Role of Default When Security Markets Are Incomplete," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(5), pages 1142-1164, December.
  3. Stiglitz, Joseph E & Weiss, Andrew, 1981. "Credit Rationing in Markets with Imperfect Information," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 71(3), pages 393-410, June.
  4. Smith, Vernon L, 1972. "Default Risk, Scale, and the Homemade Leverage Theorem," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 62(1), pages 66-76, March.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:cwl:cwldpp:1143. 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: (Matthew C. Regan)

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.