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Discretionary Policy and Multiple Equilibria

  • Robert G. King

Discretionary policymaking can foster strategic complementarities between private sector decisions, thus leading to multiple equilibria. This article studies a simple example, originating with Kydland and Prescott, of a government which must decide whether to build a dam to prevent adverse effects on floods on the incomes of residents of a floodplain. In this example, it is socially inefficient to build the dam and for people to live on the floodplain, with this outcome being the unique equilibrium under policy commitment. Under discretion, there are two equilibria. First, if agents believe that few of their fellow citizens will move to the floodplain, then they know that the government will choose not to build the dam and there is therefore no incentive for any individual to locate on the floodplain. Second, if agents believe that there will be many floodplain residents, then they know that the government will choose to build the dam and even small benefits of living on the floodplain will lead them to choose that location. In this second equilibrium, all individuals are worse off.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w12076.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 12076.

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Date of creation: Mar 2006
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Publication status: published as King, Robert G. "Discretionary Policy And Multiple Equilibria," FRB Richmond - Economic Quarterly, 2006, v92(1,Winter), 1-15.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12076
Note: EFG
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  1. Barro, Robert J & Gordon, David B, 1983. "A Positive Theory of Monetary Policy in a Natural Rate Model," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 91(4), pages 589-610, August.
  2. Chari, V. V. & Christiano, Lawrence J. & Eichenbaum, Martin, 1998. "Expectation Traps and Discretion," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 81(2), pages 462-492, August.
  3. Fischer, Stanley, 1980. "Dynamic inconsistency, cooperation and the benevolent dissembling government," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 2(1), pages 93-107, May.
  4. Kydland, Finn E & Prescott, Edward C, 1977. "Rules Rather Than Discretion: The Inconsistency of Optimal Plans," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 85(3), pages 473-91, June.
  5. Chamley, Christophe, 1986. "Optimal Taxation of Capital Income in General Equilibrium with Infinite Lives," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 54(3), pages 607-22, May.
  6. R. King & A. Wolman, 2003. "Monetary discretion, pricing complementarity and dynamic multiple equilibria," Proceedings, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  7. Lindbeck, Assar & Weibull, Jorgen W., 1993. "A model of political equilibrium in a representative democracy," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 51(2), pages 195-209, June.
  8. Cooper, Russell & John, Andrew, 1988. "Coordinating Coordination Failures in Keynesian Models," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 103(3), pages 441-63, August.
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