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Handing Out Guns at a Knife Fight: Behavioral Limitations of Subgame-Perfect Implementation

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  • Fehr, Ernst

    () (University of Zurich)

  • Powell, Michael

    () (Northwestern University)

  • Wilkening, Tom

    () (University of Melbourne)

Abstract

The assumption that payoff-relevant information is observable but not verifiable is important for many core results in contract, organizational and institutional economics. However, subgame-perfect implementation (SPI) mechanisms – which are based on off-equilibrium arbitration clauses that impose fines for lying and the inappropriate use of arbitration – can be used to render payoff-relevant observable information verifiable. Thus, if SPI mechanisms work as predicted, they undermine the foundations of important economic results based on the observable but non-verifiable assumption. Empirical evidence on the effectiveness of SPI mechanisms is, however, scarce. In this paper we show experimentally that SPI mechanisms have severe behavioral limitations. They induce retaliation against legitimate uses of arbitration and thus make the parties reluctant to trigger arbitration. The inconsistent use of arbitration eliminates the incentives to take first-best actions and leads to costly disagreements such that individuals – if given the choice – opt out of the mechanism in the majority of the cases. Incentive compatible redesigns of the mechanism solve some of these problems but generate new ones such that the overall performance of the redesigned mechanisms remains low. Our results indicate that there is little hope for SPI mechanisms to solve verifiability problems unless they are made retaliation-proof and, more generally, robust to other-regarding preferences.

Suggested Citation

  • Fehr, Ernst & Powell, Michael & Wilkening, Tom, 2014. "Handing Out Guns at a Knife Fight: Behavioral Limitations of Subgame-Perfect Implementation," IZA Discussion Papers 8404, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp8404
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Bierbrauer, Felix & Netzer, Nick, 2016. "Mechanism design and intentions," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 163(C), pages 557-603.
    2. Mathias Erlei & Wiebke Roß, 2013. "Bounded Rationality as an Essential Component of the Holdup Problem," TUC Working Papers in Economics 0009, Abteilung für Volkswirtschaftslehre, Technische Universität Clausthal (Department of Economics, Technical University Clausthal).
    3. Tatsuyoshi Saijo & Yoshitaka Okano & Takafumi Yamakawa, 2015. "The approval mechanism solves the prisoner's dilemma theoretically and experimentally," Working Papers SDES-2015-12, Kochi University of Technology, School of Economics and Management, revised Feb 2015.
    4. Schmitz, Patrick W., 2015. "Government versus private ownership of public goods: The role of bargaining frictions," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 132(C), pages 23-31.
    5. Philippe Aghion & Ernst Fehr & Richard Holden & Tom Wilkening, 2015. "The Role of Bounded Rationality and Imperfect Information in Subgame Perfect Implementation - An Empirical Investigation," CESifo Working Paper Series 5300, CESifo Group Munich.
    6. Tatsuyoshi Saijo & Takehito Masuda & Takafumi Yamakawa, "undated". "Approval Mechanism to Solve Prisoner’s Dilemma: Comparison with Varian’s Compensation Mechanism," Working Papers SDES-2016-15, Kochi University of Technology, School of Economics and Management.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    implementation theory; incomplete contracts; experiments;

    JEL classification:

    • D23 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Organizational Behavior; Transaction Costs; Property Rights
    • D71 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Social Choice; Clubs; Committees; Associations
    • D86 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Economics of Contract Law
    • C92 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Group Behavior

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