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Computational Models in Public Economic Theory

Call for Papers
Special issue on
Computational Models in Public Economic Theory
Guest editors:
Kenneth Judd and Scott Page

Formal theorems in public economics produce important insights but often at the cost of unrealistic assumptions. Computational methods can complement pure mathematical theory by examining alternative assumptions, allowing learning as well as full rationality, and exploring the quantitative importance of the results. This special issue will explore the insights computational approaches can produce for public economic theory. Therefore, we invite papers that analyze or extend existing mathematical models or classes of models from a computational perspective. These computational re-analyses may be numerical, where assumptions are varied and equilibria computed, may involve simulations of artificial agents who adapt to their environment, or may use any other computational approach. Our objective is to use available computational modeling and numerical methods to test the robustness of models in public economic theory.

Examples of such analyses might include the following: (1) Diamond and Mirrlees' analysis of optimal taxation reached strong conclusions concerning production efficiency but assumed that pure profits are taxed away and that each commodity could be taxed at a separate rate. Do reasonable violations of these assumptions lead to quantitatively significant deviations in the results? (2) Analyses of public goods mechanisms assume sophisticated agents. How well will they do if agents are adaptive? Which mechanisms are robust to assumptions about agent rationality and learning? (3) Tiebout theory reaches strong conclusions about the efficiency of local public good provision, but generally make strong assumptions about the nature and number communities. How do these results hold up when economies are small, land is discrete, or various alternative taxing or voting institutions are introduced? (4) Political economic models suggest relationships between equality and growth. How sensitive are these findings to specific functional forms and institutional assumptions?

These are just examples of potential topics. We strongly encourage authors to take a careful, scientific look at their favorite "famous" papers and results, and use computational techniques to obtain a more robust analysis of important ideas and issues in public economic theory.

Submissions should be sent directly to the editorial office in Champaign with a cover letter indicating that they are intended for this special issue. They will be immediately forwarded to Professors Judd and Page for editing.

Deadline for submissions:

September 1, 2000