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Laws as Assets: A Possible Solution to the Time Consistency Problem

  • Laurence J. Kotlikoff
  • Torsten Persson
  • Lars E.O. Svensson

This paper presents a new solution to the time-consistency problem that appears capable of enforcing ex ante policy in a variety of settings in which other enforcement mechanisms do not work. The solution involves formulating a law, institution, or agreement that specifies the optimal ex ante policy and that can be sold by successive old generations to successive young generations. Each young generation pays for the law through the payment of taxes. Both old and young generations have an economic incentive to obey the law. For the old generation that owns the law, breaking the law makes the law valueless, and the generation suffers a capital loss. For the young generation the economic advantage of purchasing the existing law exceeds its cost as well as the economic gain from setting up the law.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w2068.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 2068.

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Date of creation: Nov 1986
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Publication status: published as "Social Contracts as Assets: A Possible Solution to the Time-Consistency Problem." From American Economic Review, Vol. 78, No. 4, pp. 662-677,(September 1988).
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:2068
Note: PE
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  1. Lucas, Robert Jr. & Stokey, Nancy L., 1983. "Optimal fiscal and monetary policy in an economy without capital," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 12(1), pages 55-93.
  2. Barro, Robert J, 1974. "Are Government Bonds Net Wealth?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(6), pages 1095-1117, Nov.-Dec..
  3. Eaton, Jonathan, 1986. "Lending with costly enforcement of repayment and potential fraud," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 10(2), pages 281-293, June.
  4. Robert J. Barro & David B. Gordon, 1983. "Rules, Discretion and Reputation in a Model of Monetary Policy," NBER Working Papers 1079, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Auernheimer, Leonardo, 1974. "The Honest Government's Guide to the Revenue from the Creation of Money," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(3), pages 598-606, May/June.
  6. 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.
  7. Rogoff, Kenneth, 1987. "Reputational constraints on monetary policy," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 26(1), pages 141-181, January.
  8. 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.
  9. Persson, Mats & Persson, Torsten & Svensson, Lars E O, 1987. "Time Consistency of Fiscal and Monetary Policy," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 55(6), pages 1419-31, November.
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