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Gradualism and Irreversibility

Author

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  • Ben Lockwood

    (Warwick)

  • Jonathan P. Thomas

Abstract

This paper considers a class of two-player dynamic games in which each player controls a one-dimensional variable which we interpret as a level of cooperation. In the base model, there is an irreversibility constraint stating that this variable can never be reduced, only increased. It otherwise satisfies the usual discounted repeated game assumptions. Under certain restrictions on the payoff function, which make the stage game resemble a continuous version of the Prisoners' Dilemma, we characterize efficient symmetric quilibria. Efficient cooperation levels exhibit gradualism and converge, when payoffs are smooth, to a level strictly below the one-shot efficient level: the irreversibility induces a steady-state as well as a dynamic inefficiency. As players become very patient, however, payoffs converge to (though never attain) the efficient level. We also show that a related model in which an irreversibility arises through players choosing an incremental variable, such as investment, can be transformed into the base model with similar results. An application to a public goods sequential contribution model is discussed. The analysis is extended to incorporate sequential moves, asymmetric equilibria and partial reversibility.

Suggested Citation

  • Ben Lockwood & Jonathan P. Thomas, 1999. "Gradualism and Irreversibility," Discussion Paper Series, Department of Economics 199909, Department of Economics, University of St. Andrews.
  • Handle: RePEc:san:wpecon:9909
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    File URL: http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/~wwwecon/papers/dp9909.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Fershtman, Chaim & Nitzan, Shmuel, 1991. "Dynamic voluntary provision of public goods," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 35(5), pages 1057-1067, July.
    2. Anat R. Admati & Motty Perry, 1991. "Joint Projects without Commitment," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 58(2), pages 259-276.
    3. Pankaj Ghemawat & Barry Nalebuff, 1990. "The Devolution of Declining Industries," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 105(1), pages 167-186.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C73 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Stochastic and Dynamic Games; Evolutionary Games
    • H41 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Public Goods

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