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The Revolution of Information Economics: The Past and the Future

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  • Joseph E. Stiglitz

Abstract

The economics of information has constituted a revolution in economics, providing explanations of phenomena that previously had been unexplained and upsetting longstanding presumptions, including that of market efficiency, with profound implications for economic policy. Information failures are associated with numerous other market failures, including incomplete risk markets, imperfect capital markets, and imperfections in competition, enhancing opportunities for rent seeking and exploitation. This paper puts into perspective nearly a half century of research, including recent advances in understanding the implications of imperfect information for financial market regulation, macro-stability, inequality, and public and corporate governance; and in recognizing the endogeneity of information imperfections. It explores the consequences of recent advances in technology and the policy challenges and opportunities they present for competition policy and policies regarding privacy and transparency. The paper notes the role that information economics played in stimulating other advances in economics, including contract theory and behavioral economics. It reinvigorated institutional economics, showing how institutions mattered, in some cases explaining institutional features that could not be well-understood in the conventional paradigm, and in others showing how institutional responses to market failures might or might not be welfare enhancing. The paper argues that the new paradigm provides a markedly different, and better, lens for looking at the economy than the older perfect markets competitive paradigm.

Suggested Citation

  • Joseph E. Stiglitz, 2017. "The Revolution of Information Economics: The Past and the Future," NBER Working Papers 23780, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:23780
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Joseph E. Stiglitz, 1974. "Incentives and Risk Sharing in Sharecropping," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 41(2), pages 219-255.
    2. Martin Guzman & Joseph E. Stiglitz, 2016. "Pseudo-wealth and Consumption Fluctuations," NBER Working Papers 22838, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Karla Hoff & Joseph E. Stiglitz, 2010. "Equilibrium Fictions: A Cognitive Approach to Societal Rigidity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(2), pages 141-146, May.
    4. Steven Salop & Joseph Stiglitz, 1977. "Bargains and Ripoffs: A Model of Monopolistically Competitive Price Dispersion," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 44(3), pages 493-510.
    5. Skylar Brooks & Martín Guzman & Doménico Lombardi & Joseph E. Stiglitz, 2015. "Intercreditor and Debtor-creditor Equity Issues in Sovereign Debt Restructuring," Ensayos Económicos, Central Bank of Argentina, Economic Research Department, vol. 1(73), pages 7-25, December.
    6. Edlin, Aaron S & Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1995. "Discouraging Rivals: Managerial Rent-Seeking and Economic Inefficiencies," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(5), pages 1301-1312, December.
    7. Joseph E. Stiglitz & Jungyoll Yun & Andrew Kosenko, 2017. "Equilibrium in a Competitive Insurance Market Under Adverse Selection with Endogenous Information," NBER Working Papers 23556, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Partha Dasgupta & Joseph Stiglitz, 1972. "On Optimal Taxation and Public Production," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 39(1), pages 87-103.
    9. Hoff, Karla & Stiglitz, Joseph E., 2016. "Striving for balance in economics: Towards a theory of the social determination of behavior," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 126(PB), pages 25-57.
    10. Milgrom, Paul & Stokey, Nancy, 1982. "Information, trade and common knowledge," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 26(1), pages 17-27, February.
    11. Arnott, Richard & Stiglitz, Joseph E., 1986. "Moral hazard and optimal commodity taxation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 1-24, February.
    12. Ross, Stephen A, 1973. "The Economic Theory of Agency: The Principal's Problem," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 63(2), pages 134-139, May.
    13. Greenwald, Bruce & Stiglitz, Joseph E & Weiss, Andrew, 1984. "Informational Imperfections in the Capital Market and Macroeconomic Fluctuations," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(2), pages 194-199, May.
    14. Arnott, Richard & Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1991. "Moral Hazard and Nonmarket Institutions: Dysfunctional Crowding Out or Peer Monitoring?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(1), pages 179-190, March.
    15. Shiller, Robert J, 1990. "Market Volatility and Investor Behavior," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(2), pages 58-62, May.
    16. J. E. Stiglitz, 1972. "On the Optimality of the Stock Market Allocation of Investment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 86(1), pages 25-60.
    17. Hirshleifer, Jack, 1971. "The Private and Social Value of Information and the Reward to Inventive Activity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 61(4), pages 561-574, September.
    18. Joseph E. Stiglitz, 2014. "Intellectual Property Rights, the Pool of Knowledge, and Innovation," NBER Working Papers 20014, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    19. Fama, Eugene F, 1991. " Efficient Capital Markets: II," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 46(5), pages 1575-1617, December.
    20. Michael Rothschild & Joseph Stiglitz, 1976. "Equilibrium in Competitive Insurance Markets: An Essay on the Economics of Imperfect Information," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 90(4), pages 629-649.
    21. J. A. Mirrlees, 1971. "An Exploration in the Theory of Optimum Income Taxation," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 38(2), pages 175-208.
    22. George A. Akerlof & Robert J. Shiller, 2015. "Phishing for Phools: The Economics of Manipulation and Deception," Economics Books, Princeton University Press, edition 1, number 10534.
    23. Diamond, Peter A., 1971. "A model of price adjustment," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 3(2), pages 156-168, June.
    24. Kahneman, Daniel & Tversky, Amos, 1979. "Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(2), pages 263-291, March.
    25. Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1973. "Approaches to the Economics of Discrimination," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 63(2), pages 287-295, May.
    26. Robert M. Solow & Joseph E. Stiglitz, 1968. "Output, Employment, and Wages in the Short Run," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 82(4), pages 537-560.
    27. Grossman, Sanford J & Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1977. "On Value Maximization and Alternative Objectives of the Firm," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 32(2), pages 389-402, May.
    28. David M. G. Newbery & Joseph E. Stiglitz, 1984. "Pareto Inferior Trade," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 51(1), pages 1-12.
    29. Fama, Eugene F, 1970. "Efficient Capital Markets: A Review of Theory and Empirical Work," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 25(2), pages 383-417, May.
    30. Barry J. Nalebuff & Joseph E. Stiglitz, 1983. "Prices and Incentives: Towards a General Theory of Compensation and Competition," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 14(1), pages 21-43, Spring.
    31. Shapiro, Carl & Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1984. "Equilibrium Unemployment as a Worker Discipline Device," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(3), pages 433-444, June.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • B21 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought since 1925 - - - Microeconomics
    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness

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