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Some Inefficiency Implication of Generational Politics and Exchange

  • Laurence J. Kotlikoff
  • Robert W. Rosenthal

Generational selfishness is a central assumption in the vast literature on the life cycle model. Much of this literature deals with the impact of alternative government policies in light of self-interested generational behavior. Surprisingly, the choices of governments in virtually all of these analyses are assumed to be independent of the preferences of the selfish generations these governments presumably represent. We address this anomaly by modeling each generation as having a government that strictly represents the economy along a number of dimensions. We consider two types of inefficiencies that have received little or no attention in the literature. The first is the monopolization of factor supplies, and the second is the under- or overprovision of durable public goods. We demonstrate that selfish generations may place sizable marginal taxes on their factor supplies in order to monopolize their factor markets. We also show that selfish generations will provide inefficient levels of durable public goods both at the local and national levels. Finally, we demonstrate that generational inefficiencies can arise even in models of cooperative bargaining because of the first-mover advantage of earlier generations.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 3354.

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Date of creation: May 1990
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Economics and Politics, Vol. 5, No. 1, pp. 27-42 (March 1993)
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:3354
Note: AG PE
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  1. Summers, Lawrence H, 1981. "Capital Taxation and Accumulation in a Life Cycle Growth Model," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 71(4), pages 533-44, September.
  2. Paul A. Samuelson, 1958. "An Exact Consumption-Loan Model of Interest with or without the Social Contrivance of Money," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 66, pages 467.
  3. Barro, Robert J., 1974. "Are Government Bonds Net Wealth?," Scholarly Articles 3451399, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  4. Sadka, Efraim, 1976. "On Income Distribution, Incentive Effects and Optimal Income Taxation," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 43(2), pages 261-67, June.
  5. Becker, Gary S, 1974. "A Theory of Social Interactions," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(6), pages 1063-93, Nov.-Dec..
  6. Kotlikoff, Laurence J & Persson, Torsten & Svensson, Lars E O, 1988. "Social Contracts as Assets: A Possible Solution to the Time-Consistency Problem," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 78(4), pages 662-77, September.
  7. Joseph E. Stiglitz, 1982. "The Theory of Local Public Goods Twenty-Five Years After Tiebout: A Perspective," NBER Working Papers 0954, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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