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Discussion Papers

55 - Fundamental Utilitarianism and Intergenerational Equity with Extinction Discounting

Graciela Chichilnisky, Peter J. Hammond & Nicholas Stern

Ramsey famously condemned discounting “future enjoyments” as “ethically indefensible”. Suppes enunciated an equity criterion which, when social choice is utilitarian, implies giving equal weight to all individuals’ utilities. By contrast, Arrow (1999a, b) accepted, perhaps reluctantly, what he called Koopmans’ (1960) “strong argument” implying that no equitable preference ordering exists for a sufficiently unrestricted domain of infinite utility streams. Here we derive an equitable utilitarian objective for a finite population based on a version of the Vickrey–Harsanyi original position, where there is an equal probability of becoming each person. For a potentially infinite population facing an exogenous stochastic process of extinction, an equitable extinction biased original position requires equal conditional probabilities, given that the individual’s generation survives the extinction process. Such a position is well-defined if and only if survival probabilities decline fast enough for the expected total number of individuals who can ever live to be finite. Then, provided that each individual’s utility is bounded both above and below, maximizing expected “extinction discounted” total utility — as advocated, inter alia, by the Stern Review on climate change — provides a coherent and dynamically consistent equitable objective, even when the population size of each generation can be chosen.

49 - The dynamics of inequalities and unequal exchange of labor in intertemporal linear economies

Giorgos Galanis, Roberto Veneziani & Naoki Yoshihara

Introducing a concept of fairness of economic allocations, namely exploitation as the unequal exchange of labor (henceforth, UE exploitation) by generalizing Roemer’s [51, 52] seminal model, this paper aims to answer the following two questions in the context of an intertemporal economy with linear technology: How is income and wealth inequality related (or unrelated) to the existence and persistence of UE exploitation? What are the mechanisms driving the persistent existence of UE exploitation in growing economies? Agents are UE exploited (resp. exploiters) if the amount of labor that they contribute to the economy is smaller (resp. bigger) than the amount of labor ‘received’ by them via their income. It is proved, first, that UE exploitation is monotonically correlated to functional income inequality. Second, it is shown that, unless agents discount the future, asset inequalities are necessary, but not sufficient for the persistence of UE exploitation, and the capital accumulation leading to the disappearance of UE exploitation cannot be ruled out in equilibrium. Third, it is shown that, regardless of whether agents discount the future, labor-saving technical progress may yield sustained growth with persistent UE exploitation by keeping labor abundant relative to capital, which restrains wages from rising. Unlike in models with differentiable production functions, this mechanism does not rely on changes in the marginal productivity of inputs and it is entirely driven by the interaction between innovation and labor markets.

18 - Optimal leverage and strategic disclosure

Giulio Trigilia

Firms seeking external financing jointly choose what securities to issue, and the extent of their disclosure commitments. The literature shows that enhanced disclosure reduces the cost of financing. This paper analyses how disclosure affects the optimal composition of financing means. It considers a market where firms compete for external financing under costly-state-verification, but,in contrast to the standard model : (i) the degree of asymmetric information between firms and outside investors is variable, and (ii) firms can affect it through a disclosure policy, modeled as a verifiable signal with a cost decreasing in its noise component. Two central predictions emerge. On the positive side, optimal disclosure and leverage are negatively correlated. Efficient equity financing requires that firms are sufficiently transparent, whereas debt does not; it solely relies on the threat of bankruptcy and liquidation. Therefore, more transparent firms issue cheaper equity and face a higher opportunity cost of leveraged external financing. The prediction is shown to be consistent with the behavior of US corporations since the 1980s. On the normative side, disclosure externalities and time inconsistencies lead to under-disclosure and excessive leverage relative to the constrained best. If mandatory disclosures are feasible { that is, they cannot be easily dodged { they increase welfare. Otherwise, endogenously higher transparency can be triggered if regulators set capital requirements. Capital regulation proves especially useful when (i) firm performances are highly correlated, and (ii) disclosure requirements can be easily dodged { conditions that seem to apply to large financial firms. The view of capital standards as a means to improve the information environment is novel in the literature; its policy implications and challenges are discussed.