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The Political Economy of Indirect Control

  • Gerard Padró i Miquel
  • Pierre Yared

This paper characterizes the efficient sequential equilibrium when a government uses indirect control to exert its authority. We develop a dynamic principal-agent model in which a principal (a government) delegates the prevention of a disturbance--such as riots, protests, terrorism, crime, or tax evasion--to an agent who has an advantage in accomplishing this task. Our setting is a standard dynamic principal-agent model with two additional features. First, the principal is allowed to exert direct control by intervening with an endogenously determined intensity of force which is costly to both players. Second, the principal suffers from limited commitment. Using recursive methods, we derive a fully analytical characterization of the likelihood, intensity, and duration of intervention. The first main insight from our model is that repeated and costly interventions are a feature of the efficient equilibrium. This is because they serve as a punishment to induce the agent into desired behavior. The second main insight is a detailed analysis of a fundamental tradeoff between the intensity and duration of intervention which is driven by the principal's inability to commit. Finally, we derive sharp predictions regarding the impact of various factors on likelihood, intensity, and duration of intervention. We discuss these results in the context of some historical episodes.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 15748.

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Date of creation: Feb 2010
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Publication status: published as The Quarterly Journal of Economics (2012) 127 (2): 947-1015.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15748
Note: POL
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  1. Sandeep Baliga & Tomas Sjostrom, 2001. "Arms Races and Negotiations," Economics Working Papers 0007, Institute for Advanced Study, School of Social Science.
  2. Drew Fudenberg & David K. Levine & Eric Maskin, 1994. "The Folk Theorem with Imperfect Public Information," Levine's Working Paper Archive 394, David K. Levine.
  3. Georgy Egorov & Konstantin Sonin, 2005. "Dictators and Their Viziers: Agency Problems in Dictatorships," Economics Working Papers 0053, Institute for Advanced Study, School of Social Science.
  4. Fearon, James D., 1995. "Rationalist explanations for war," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 49(03), pages 379-414, June.
  5. Rui Albuquerque & Hugo A. Hopenhayn, 2004. "Optimal Lending Contracts and Firm Dynamics," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 71(2), pages 285-315, 04.
  6. Polinsky, A. Mitchell & Shavell, Steven, 1984. "The optimal use of fines and imprisonment," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(1), pages 89-99, June.
  7. John Ferejohn, 1986. "Incumbent performance and electoral control," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 50(1), pages 5-25, January.
  8. Green, Edward J. & Porter, Robert H., 1982. "Noncooperative Collusion Under Imperfect Price Information," Working Papers 367, California Institute of Technology, Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences.
  9. Daron Acemoglu & Alexander Wolitzky, 2011. "The Economics of Labor Coercion," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 79(2), pages 555-600, 03.
  10. Ernesto Dal Bo & Rafael Di Tella, 2003. "Capture by Threat," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 111(5), pages 1123-1152, October.
  11. Luca Anderlini & Dino Gerardi & Roger Lagunoff, 2010. "Social Memory, Evidence, and Conflict," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 13(3), pages 559-574, July.
  12. Schwarz, Michael & Sonin, Konstantin, 2005. "A Theory of Brinkmanship, Conflicts, and Commitments," CEPR Discussion Papers 5075, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  13. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521855266 is not listed on IDEAS
  14. Thomas, Jonathan & Worrall, Tim, 1990. "Income fluctuation and asymmetric information: An example of a repeated principal-agent problem," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 51(2), pages 367-390, August.
  15. Phelan Christopher, 1995. "Repeated Moral Hazard and One-Sided Commitment," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 66(2), pages 488-506, August.
  16. Sandeep Baliga & Tomas Sj�str�m, 2004. "Arms Races and Negotiations," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 71(2), pages 351-369.
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