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The Dark Side of Competitive Pressure

One of the most basic principles in economics is that competitive pressure promotes efficiency. However, this pressure can also have a dark side because it makes firms reluctant to act on private information that is unpopular with consumers. As a result, firms that possess superior information about the consequences of their actions for consumers' welfare may choose not to use it. We develop this idea in a simple model of delegated investment in which agents are fully rational and risk neutral, and agency problems are absent. We show that competitive pressure obliges firms to make inefficient decisions when their information advantage over consumers is relatively small. This result could be applied to a broad range of economically important situations.

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Paper provided by Hunter College Department of Economics in its series Economics Working Paper Archive at Hunter College with number 02/3.

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Length: 37 pages
Date of creation: 2002
Date of revision: 2002
Handle: RePEc:htr:hcecon:02/3
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  1. Lazear, Edward P & Rosen, Sherwin, 1981. "Rank-Order Tournaments as Optimum Labor Contracts," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(5), pages 841-64, October.
  2. Simon Grant & Stephen King & Ben Polak, 1995. "Information Externalities, Share-Price Based Incentives and Managerial Behaviour," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1107, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  3. Curtis Eaton, B. & Lipsey, Richard G., 1989. "Product differentiation," Handbook of Industrial Organization, in: R. Schmalensee & R. Willig (ed.), Handbook of Industrial Organization, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 12, pages 723-768 Elsevier.
  4. Scharfstein, David S & Stein, Jeremy C, 1990. "Herd Behavior and Investment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(3), pages 465-79, June.
  5. Stephen Morris, 2001. "Political Correctness," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 109(2), pages 231-265, April.
  6. Paul Heidhues & Johan Lagerlöf, 2000. "Hiding Information in Electoral Competition," CIG Working Papers FS IV 00-06, Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin (WZB), Research Unit: Competition and Innovation (CIG), revised Feb 2002.
  7. B.Curtis Eaton & Richard G. Lipsey, 1972. "The Principle of Minimum Differentiation Reconsidered: Some New Developments in the Theory of Spatial Competition," Working Papers 87, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
  8. Caplin, Andrew & Nalebuff, Barry, 1991. "Aggregation and Imperfect Competition: On the Existence of Equilibrium," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 59(1), pages 25-59, January.
  9. Milgrom, Paul R., 1987. "employment contracts, influence activities and efficient organization design," Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt6pf6c5j6, Department of Economics, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
  10. Lazear, Edward P, 1989. "Pay Equality and Industrial Politics," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(3), pages 561-80, June.
  11. Adam Brandenburger & Ben Polak, 1996. "When Managers Cover Their Posteriors: Making the Decisions the Market Wants to See," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 27(3), pages 523-541, Autumn.
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