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You Might as Well be Hung for a Sheep as a Lamb: The Loss Function of an Agent


  • Charles Goodhart


  • Margaret Bray



Most of those who take macro and monetary policy decisions are agents. The worst penalty which can be applied to these agents is to sack them. Agents thus have loss functions which are bounded above. We work with a bell loss function which has this property. With additive uncertainty the certainty equivalence which holds for a quadratic loss function breaks down with a bell loss function when there are two or more targets. With multiplicative (Brainard) uncertainty policy is more conservative than in the absence of multiplicative uncertainty, but less so with the bell than the quadratic loss function.

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  • Charles Goodhart & Margaret Bray, 2002. "You Might as Well be Hung for a Sheep as a Lamb: The Loss Function of an Agent," FMG Discussion Papers dp418, Financial Markets Group.
  • Handle: RePEc:fmg:fmgdps:dp418

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Louis K.C. Chan & Jason Karceski & Josef Lakonishok, 1999. "On Portfolio Optimization: Forecasting Covariances and Choosing the Risk Model," NBER Working Papers 7039, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Chevalier, Judith & Ellison, Glenn, 1997. "Risk Taking by Mutual Funds as a Response to Incentives," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 105(6), pages 1167-1200, December.
    3. Schellekens, Philip, 2002. "Caution and Conservatism in the Making of Monetary Policy," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 34(1), pages 160-177, February.
    4. Grossman, Sanford J & Zhou, Zhongquan, 1996. " Equilibrium Analysis of Portfolio Insurance," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 51(4), pages 1379-1403, September.
    5. Chan, Louis K C & Karceski, Jason & Lakonishok, Josef, 1999. "On Portfolio Optimization: Forecasting Covariances and Choosing the Risk Model," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 12(5), pages 937-974.
    6. Fung, William & Hsieh, David A, 1997. "Empirical Characteristics of Dynamic Trading Strategies: The Case of Hedge Funds," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 10(2), pages 275-302.
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    Cited by:

    1. Lars E.O. Svensson, 2003. "Optimal Policy with Low-Probability Extreme Events," NBER Working Papers 10196, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Alberto Locarno, 2007. "Imperfect Knowledge, Adaptive Learning, and the Bias Against Activist Monetary Policies," International Journal of Central Banking, International Journal of Central Banking, vol. 3(3), pages 47-85, September.
    3. Stracca, Livio, 2004. "Behavioral finance and asset prices: Where do we stand?," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 25(3), pages 373-405, June.
    4. Fielding, David & Stracca, Livio, 2007. "Myopic loss aversion, disappointment aversion, and the equity premium puzzle," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 64(2), pages 250-268, October.

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