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Partial Prescriptions For Decisions With Partial Knowledge

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  • Charles F. Manski

Abstract

This paper concerns the prescriptive function of decision analysis. I suppose that an agent must choose an action yielding welfare that varies with the state of nature. The agent has a welfare function and beliefs, but he does not know the actual state of nature. It is often argued that such an agent should adhere to consistency axioms which imply that behavior can be represented as maximization of expected utility. However, our agent is not concerned the consistency of his behavior across hypothetical choice sets. He only wants to make a reasonable choice from the choice set that he actually faces. Hence, I reason that prescriptions for decision making should respect actuality. That is, they should promote welfare maximization in the choice problem the agent actually faces. I conclude that any decision rule respecting weak and stochastic dominance should be considered rational. Expected utility maximization respects dominance, but it has no special status from the actualist perspective. Moreover, the basic consistency axiom of transitivity has a clear normative foundation only when actions are ordered by dominance.

Suggested Citation

  • Charles F. Manski, 2008. "Partial Prescriptions For Decisions With Partial Knowledge," NBER Working Papers 14396, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14396
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Charles F. Manski, 2004. "Measuring Expectations," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 72(5), pages 1329-1376, September.
    2. G. Hanoch & H. Levy, 1969. "The Efficiency Analysis of Choices Involving Risk," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 36(3), pages 335-346.
    3. Lawrence Blume & Adam Brandenburger & Eddie Dekel, 2014. "Lexicographic Probabilities and Choice Under Uncertainty," World Scientific Book Chapters,in: The Language of Game Theory Putting Epistemics into the Mathematics of Games, chapter 6, pages 137-160 World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd..
    4. Sen, Amartya K, 1973. "Behaviour and the Concept of Preference," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 40(159), pages 241-259, August.
    5. Levy, Haim & Kroll, Yoram, 1978. "Ordering Uncertain Options with Borrowing and Lending," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 33(2), pages 553-574, May.
    6. Charles F. Manski, 2006. "Search Profiling With Partial Knowledge of Deterrence," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 116(515), pages 385-401, November.
    7. Charles F. Manski, 2008. "Adaptive partial policy innovation: coping with ambiguity through diversification," CeMMAP working papers CWP10/08, Centre for Microdata Methods and Practice, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
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    Cited by:

    1. Besanko, David & Tong, Jian & Wu, Jianjun, 2016. "Dynamic game under ambiguity: the sequential bargaining example, and a new "coase conjecture"," Discussion Paper Series In Economics And Econometrics 1606, Economics Division, School of Social Sciences, University of Southampton.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D81 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Criteria for Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty

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