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The Logical Consistency of Time Inconsistency: A Theory of Forward-Looking Behavior

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  • Simone Galperti
  • Bruno Strulovici

Abstract

This paper argues that, to be forward-looking in a logically consistent sense, a decision maker must take account of his overall well-being, not just his instantaneous utility, in all future periods. However, such a decision-maker is necessarily time inconsistent. The paper explores the relationship between how a decision-maker discounts well-being and how he discounts instantaneous utility. It also provides simple axiomatizations of preferences that exhibit forward-looking behavior, including quasi-hyperbolic discounting (Phelps and Pollack (1968) [18]; Laibson (1997) [12]). Finally, the paper provides a rigorous way to think about welfare criteria in models with time inconsistent agents.

Suggested Citation

  • Simone Galperti & Bruno Strulovici, 2013. "The Logical Consistency of Time Inconsistency: A Theory of Forward-Looking Behavior," Discussion Papers 1571, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  • Handle: RePEc:nwu:cmsems:1571
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. R. H. Strotz, 1955. "Myopia and Inconsistency in Dynamic Utility Maximization," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 23(3), pages 165-180.
    2. Faruk Gul & Wolfgang Pesendorfer, 2001. "Temptation and Self-Control," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 69(6), pages 1403-1435, November.
    3. Ariel Rubinstein, 2003. ""Economics and Psychology"? The Case of Hyperbolic Discounting," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 44(4), pages 1207-1216, November.
    4. David Laibson & Andrea Repetto & Jeremy Tobacman, 2005. "Estimating Discount Functions with Consumption Choices over the Lifecycle," Levine's Bibliography 784828000000000643, UCLA Department of Economics.
    5. Hayashi, Takashi, 2003. "Quasi-stationary cardinal utility and present bias," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 112(2), pages 343-352, October.
    6. Siniscalchi, Marciano, 2011. "Dynamic choice under ambiguity," Theoretical Economics, Econometric Society, vol. 6(3), September.
    7. Saez-Marti, Maria & Weibull, Jorgen W., 2005. "Discounting and altruism to future decision-makers," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 122(2), pages 254-266, June.
    8. Loewenstein, George, 1987. "Anticipation and the Valuation of Delayed Consumption," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 97(387), pages 666-684, September.
    9. Shane Frederick & George Loewenstein & Ted O'Donoghue, 2002. "Time Discounting and Time Preference: A Critical Review," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 40(2), pages 351-401, June.
    10. George Loewenstein & Drazen Prelec, 1992. "Anomalies in Intertemporal Choice: Evidence and an Interpretation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 107(2), pages 573-597.
    11. Andrew Caplin & John Leahy, 2001. "Psychological Expected Utility Theory and Anticipatory Feelings," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(1), pages 55-79.
    12. David Laibson, 1997. "Golden Eggs and Hyperbolic Discounting," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(2), pages 443-478.
    13. Paul A. Samuelson, 1937. "A Note on Measurement of Utility," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 4(2), pages 155-161.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    time inconsistency; forward-looking behavior; hyperbolic discounting; beta-delta discounting; anticipations; welfare criterion. JEL Classification: D01; D60; D90;

    JEL classification:

    • D01 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Microeconomic Behavior: Underlying Principles
    • D60 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - General
    • D90 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - General

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