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Large-scale risks and technological change: What about limited liability?

  • Julien Jacob
  • Sandrine Spaeter
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    We consider a firm that has to choose a technology to produce a given good. This technology drives a multiplicative large-scale risk of incident for Society: the total potential level of damage increases with the level of activity. Contrary to what is often argued in the literature, we show that limited liability can be more incentive for technical change than an unlimited liability rule, depending on the magnitude of the technological change and on the firm's size. In a second part of the paper, taxes are introduced. We show how manipulating the tax rate with respect to the technological choice made by the firm still enlarges the set of parameters that lead to technological change under a limited liability rule. Our normative results provide some arguments in favor of the limited liability rule, often considered as the main explanation of partial large-scale risk internalization by firms.

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    Paper provided by Bureau d'Economie Théorique et Appliquée, UDS, Strasbourg in its series Working Papers of BETA with number 2010-12.

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    Date of creation: 2010
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    Handle: RePEc:ulp:sbbeta:2010-12
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    1. Dionne, Georges & Spaeter, Sandrine, 2003. "Environmental risk and extended liability: The case of green technologies," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(5-6), pages 1025-1060, May.
    2. Hiriart, Yolande & Martimort, David, 2004. "The Benefits of Extended Liability," IDEI Working Papers 334, Institut d'Économie Industrielle (IDEI), Toulouse, revised Jun 2005.
    3. Milliman, Scott R. & Prince, Raymond, 1989. "Firm incentives to promote technological change in pollution control," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 17(3), pages 247-265, November.
    4. Boyer, Marcel & Laffont, Jean-Jacques, 1997. "Environmental risks and bank liability," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 41(8), pages 1427-1459, August.
    5. Boyd, James & Ingberman, Daniel E, 1994. "Noncompensatory Damages and Potential Insolvency," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 23(2), pages 895-910, June.
    6. Requate, Till, 1998. "Incentives to innovate under emission taxes and tradeable permits," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 14(1), pages 139-165, February.
    7. Magat, Wesley A., 1978. "Pollution control and technological advance: A dynamic model of the firm," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 5(1), pages 1-25, March.
    8. Parry, Ian W. H., 1995. "Optimal pollution taxes and endogenous technological progress," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(1), pages 69-85, May.
    9. Shavell, S., 1986. "The judgment proof problem," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 6(1), pages 45-58, June.
    10. Parry, Ian & Pizer, William & Fischer, Carolyn, 1998. "Instrument Choice for Environmental Protection When Technological Innovation is Endogenous," Discussion Papers dp-99-04, Resources For the Future.
    11. T. Randolph Beard, 1990. "Bankruptcy and Care Choice," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 21(4), pages 626-634, Winter.
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