, Volume 33, Issue 2, pp 159-180

Compensatory transfers in two-player decision problems

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Abstract

This paper presents an axiomatic characterization of a family of solutions to two-player quasi-linear social choice problems. In these problems the players select a single action from a set available to them. They may also transfer money between themselves.

The solutions form a one-parameter family, where the parameter is a non-negative number, t.

The solutions can be interpreted as follows: Any efficient action can be selected. Based on this action, compute for each player a “best claim for compensation”. A claim for compensation is the difference between the value of an alternative action and the selected efficient action, minus a penalty proportional to the extent to which the alternative action is inefficient. The coefficient of proportionality of this penalty is t. The best claim for compensation for a player is the maximum of this computed claim over all possible alternative actions. The solution, at the parameter value t, is to implement the chosen efficient action and make a monetary transfer equal to the average of these two best claims. The characterization relies on three main axioms. The paper presents and justifies these axioms and compares them to related conditions used in other bargaining contexts. In Nash Bargaining Theory, the axioms analogous to these three are in conflict with each other. In contrast, in the quasi-linear social choice setting of this paper, all three conditions can be satisfied simultaneously.

This work was supported by the Division of Research at the Harvard Business School. Thanks are due to the Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics at Yale University for its kind hospitality during the Spring of 2002. I have received helpful advice and comments from Youngsub Chun, Ehud Kalai, Herve Moulin, Al Roth, Ilya Segal, Adam Szeidl, Richard Zeckhauser, and other members of the Theory Seminars at Harvard, MIT, Princeton, Rice and Northwestern.