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The Invisible Hand and Modern Welfare Economics

  • Joseph E. Stiglitz

This paper reviews and puts into perspective recent work reassessing the first and second Fundamental Theorems of Welfare Economics. It assesses the implications of the Greenwald-Stiglitz theorem establishing the (constrained) Pareto inefficiency of market economies with imperfect information and incomplete markets as well as recent work on endogenous technological change. The information theoretic limitations to the Second Fundamental Theorem are also discussed, including the inability to separate out issues of equity and efficiency. The final sections of the paper consider the consequences of these problems for economic organization, economic policy, and the role of ideology in the belief in the Invisible Hand.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w3641.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 3641.

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Date of creation: Mar 1991
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Vines, David and Andrew A. Stevenson (eds.) Information, strategy and public policy. Oxford and Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1991.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:3641
Note: PE
Contact details of provider: Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
Phone: 617-868-3900
Web page: http://www.nber.org
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  1. Hall, Robert E, 1988. "The Relation between Price and Marginal Cost in U.S. Industry," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 96(5), pages 921-47, October.
  2. Shavell, Steven, 1979. "On Moral Hazard and Insurance," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 93(4), pages 541-62, November.
  3. Steven Salop & Joseph Stiglitz, 1977. "Bargains and ripoffs: a model of monopolistically competitive price dispersion," Special Studies Papers 94, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  4. Peter A. Diamond & J. A. Mirrlees, 1968. "Optimal Taxation and Public Production," Working papers 22, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  5. Newbery, David M, 1989. "The Theory of Food Price Stabilisation," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 99(398), pages 1065-82, December.
  6. John Vickers & George Yarrow, 1988. "Privatization: An Economic Analysis," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262720116, June.
  7. Myers, Stewart C. & Majluf, Nicholas S., 1984. "Corporate financing and investment decisions when firms have information that investors do not have," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 13(2), pages 187-221, June.
  8. 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 194-99, May.
  9. Sonnenschein, Hugo, 1973. "Do Walras' identity and continuity characterize the class of community excess demand functions?," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 6(4), pages 345-354, August.
  10. Myers, Stewart C. & Majluf, Nicolás S., 1945-, 1984. "Corporate financing and investment decisions when firms have information that investors do not have," Working papers 1523-84., Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Sloan School of Management.
  11. David E. M. Sappington & Joseph E. Stiglitz, 1987. "Privatization, Information and Incentives," NBER Working Papers 2196, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Hall, Robert E & Jorgenson, Dale W, 1969. "Tax Policy and Investment Behavior: Reply and Further Results," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 59(3), pages 388-401, June.
  13. Greenwald, Bruce C & Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1986. "Externalities in Economies with Imperfect Information and Incomplete Markets," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 101(2), pages 229-64, May.
  14. Mirrlees, James A, 1971. "An Exploration in the Theory of Optimum Income Taxation," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 38(114), pages 175-208, April.
  15. Stewart C. Myers & Nicholas S. Majluf, 1984. "Corporate Financing and Investment Decisions When Firms Have InformationThat Investors Do Not Have," NBER Working Papers 1396, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Mantel, Rolf R., 1974. "On the characterization of aggregate excess demand," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 7(3), pages 348-353, March.
  17. Salop, Steven, 1976. "Information and Monopolistic Competition," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 66(2), pages 240-45, May.
  18. Steve Salop, 1976. "Information and monopolistic competition," Special Studies Papers 74, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  19. Shapiro, Carl & Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1984. "Equilibrium Unemployment as a Worker Discipline Device," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(3), pages 433-44, June.
  20. Grossman, Sanford J, 1981. "Nash Equilibrium and the Industrial Organization of Markets with Large Fixed Costs," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 49(5), pages 1149-72, September.
  21. Akerlof, George A & Dickens, William T, 1982. "The Economic Consequences of Cognitive Dissonance," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 72(3), pages 307-19, June.
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