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Early Decisions: A Regulatory Framework

Author

Listed:
  • John Beshears
  • James J. Choi
  • David Laibson
  • Brigitte Madrian

Abstract

We describe a regulatory framework that helps consumers who have difficulty sticking to their own long-run plans. Early Decision regulations help long-run preferences prevail by allowing consumers to partially commit to their long-run goals, making it harder for a momentary impulse to reverse past decisions. In the cigarette market, examples of Early Decision regulations include restricting the locations or times at which cigarettes are sold, delaying the receipt of cigarettes following purchase, and allowing a consumer to choose in advance the legal restrictions on her own cigarette purchases. A formal model of Early Decision regulations demonstrates that Early Decisions are optimal when consumer preferences are heterogeneous. Intuitively, each consumer knows his own preferences, so self-rationing - which is what Early Decisions enable - is better than a one-size-fits-all regulation like a sin tax. Of course, Early Decision regulations incur social costs and therefore require empirical evaluation to determine their net social value.

Suggested Citation

  • John Beshears & James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte Madrian, 2006. "Early Decisions: A Regulatory Framework," NBER Working Papers 11920, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11920
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    File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w11920.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Matthew Rabin & Ted O'Donoghue, 1999. "Doing It Now or Later," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(1), pages 103-124, March.
    2. Akerlof, George A, 1991. "Procrastination and Obedience," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(2), pages 1-19, May.
    3. Joni Hersch, 2005. "Smoking Restrictions as a Self-Control Mechanism," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 31(1), pages 5-21, July.
    4. Jonathan Gruber & Botond Köszegi, 2001. "Is Addiction "Rational"? Theory and Evidence," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(4), pages 1261-1303.
    5. David Laibson, 1997. "Golden Eggs and Hyperbolic Discounting," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(2), pages 443-478.
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    Cited by:

    1. Christensen, Else Gry Bro & Nafziger, Julia, 2016. "Packaging of sin goods – Commitment or exploitation?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 122(C), pages 62-74.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D11 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Theory
    • D69 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Other
    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making
    • H21 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Efficiency; Optimal Taxation
    • H31 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents - - - Household

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