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Incomplete Information in the Samaritan's Dilemma: The Dilemma (Almost) Vanishes

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  • Johan Lagerlöf

Abstract

Suppose an altruistic person, A, is willing to transfer resources to a second person, B, if B comes upon hard times. If B anticipates that A will act in this manner, B will save too little from both agents' point of view. This is the Samaritan's dilemma. The mechanism in the dilemma has been employed in an extensive literature, addressing a wide range of both normative and positive issues. However, this paper shows that the undersaving result is not robust to the assumption that information is complete: by adding a slight amount of uncertainty one can sustain an equilibrium outcome that is arbitrarily close to ex post incentive efficiency. One may also sustain outcomes with oversaving. ZUSAMMENFASSUNG - (Unvollständige Information im Fall des Samariter-Dilemmas: Das Dilemma verschwindet (meist)) Angenommen eine altruistische Person A ist bereit, Ressourcen einer zweiten Person B zu übertragen, wenn für B schwierige Zeiten anbrechen. Wenn B antizipiert, daß A in dieser Weise handeln wird, dann wird B wenig sparen und zwar aus der Sicht beider Agenten. Dieses Phänomen wird als Samariter-Dilemma bezeichnet. Die Mechanismen, die dabei wirken, wurden in der Literatur sowohl auf einer normativen als auch empirischen Ebene ausgiebig diskutiert. In diesem Beitrag wird jedoch gezeigt, daß das Ergebnis des .Untersparens. im Hinblick auf die Annahme unvollständiger Information nicht robust ist. Bei Berücksichtigung eines geringen Maßes an Unsicherheit stellt sich ein Gleichgewichtsergebnis ein, das nahe der Ex-post-Anreizeffizienz liegt. Man kann aber auch Ergebnisse mit dem .Übersparen. erhalten.

Suggested Citation

  • Johan Lagerlöf, 1999. "Incomplete Information in the Samaritan's Dilemma: The Dilemma (Almost) Vanishes," CIG Working Papers FS IV 99-12, Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin (WZB), Research Unit: Competition and Innovation (CIG), revised Jun 2002.
  • Handle: RePEc:wzb:wzebiv:fsiv99-12
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    References listed on IDEAS

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