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The 'Ratchet Principle' and Performance Incentives


  • M. Weitzman


The use of current performance as a partial basis for setting future targets is an almost universal feature of economic planning. This "ratchet principle," as it is sometimes called, creates a dynamic incentive problem for the enterprise. Higher rewards from better current performance must be weighed against the future assignment of more ambitious targets. In this paper I formulate the problem of the enterprise as a multiperiod stochastic optimization model incorporating an explicit feedback mechanism for target setting. I show that an optimal solution is easily characterized, and that the incentive effects of the ratchet principle can be fully analyzed in simple economic terms.
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Suggested Citation

  • M. Weitzman, 1979. "The 'Ratchet Principle' and Performance Incentives," Working papers 239, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:mit:worpap:239

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Sargent, Thomas J & Wallace, Neil, 1975. ""Rational" Expectations, the Optimal Monetary Instrument, and the Optimal Money Supply Rule," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 83(2), pages 241-254, April.
    2. Duncan K. Foley & Martin F. Hellwig, 1975. "Asset Management with Trading Uncertainty," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 42(3), pages 327-346.
    3. Lucas, Robert Jr., 1972. "Expectations and the neutrality of money," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 4(2), pages 103-124, April.
    4. McCallum, Bennett T, 1977. "Price-Level Stickiness and the Feasibility of Monetary Stabilization Policy with Rational Expectations," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 85(3), pages 627-634, June.
    5. Phelps, Edmund S & Taylor, John B, 1977. "Stabilizing Powers of Monetary Policy under Rational Expectations," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 85(1), pages 163-190, February.
    6. Fischer, Stanley, 1977. "Long-Term Contracts, Rational Expectations, and the Optimal Money Supply Rule," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 85(1), pages 191-205, February.
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