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Generalized consistent ranking and the formation of self-enforcing coalitions


Agents endowed with powers compete for a divisible prize by forming coalitions. When a coalition wins, all non-members are eliminated. The winning coalition then divides the prize among its members according to a given sharing rule. We investigate the case where the sharing rule satisfies a property we call consistent ranking. Consistent ranking ensures that agents’ rankings of competing coalitions coincide. Sharing rules such as equal and proportional sharing satisfy this property. We also examine a larger class of sharing rules that satisfy a property we call generalized consistent ranking where agents can rank coalitions even though the sharing rule does not satisfy consistent ranking. For instance, a convex combination of equal and proportional sharing, which we call combination sharing, violates consistent ranking but satisfies generalized consistent ranking under certain conditions. For these different sharing rules, we characterize rules on choosing coalitions (called transition correspondence) that satisfy two main axioms: self-enforcement, which requires that no further deviation happens after a coalition has formed, and rationality, which requires that agents pick the coalition that gives them their highest payoff. We find that a transition correspondence that satisfies self-enforcement and rationality always exists for sharing rules that satisfy generalized consistent ranking (and hence, consistent ranking). In the case of combination sharing, one way to satisfy generalized consistent ranking is to restrict the configuration of powers in society to satisfy size-power monotonicity, where larger coalitions have higher powers.

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  1. The applications are wide-ranging, for instance, appropriating gains and costs from managing global public goods (Carraro 1999), cost and revenue sharing in irrigation networks (Jandoc et al. 2015), and market design (Roth 1984), to name a few.

  2. A real-world example of this setting is the purge in the Russian Politburo documented in Acemoglu et al. (2008).

  3. Elsewhere in this paper, we interchange the term ultimate ruling coalition with the term limit coalition or final coalition.

  4. Equal sharing is widely used not only on theoretical grounds but also for practical purposes such as inheritance bequest (Erixson and Ohlsson 2014).

  5. The Sen share is a convex combination of an equal share of the surplus among productive agents and a proportional share according to an agent’s labor to the total labor supplied in the economy. (Fabella 1988, 2000) shows that under increasing returns to scale, the Sen share of the production surplus can support Pareto optimal production.

  6. Since agents are given exogenous power, we avoid the “joint-bargaining paradox” where, in a pure bargaining situation, an individual can be made worse-off by negotiating as a member of a group than by negotiating alone (Harsanyi 1977; Chae and Heidhues 2004; Chae and Moulin 2010).

  7. The consistency critique of the traditional concept of the core stems from the requirement that the subcoalitions that object to the formation of the grand coalition must themselves be tested against further objections (see Ray and Vohra 1997 for a discussion of this consistency critique).

  8. This is also introduced by Ray and Vohra (1997) in the “sequential blocking” approach in equilibrium binding agreements. An excellent review of these issues is found in Ray and Vohra (2013).

  9. Using a laboratory experiment, Jandoc and Juarez (2019) show that agents do not display farsighted behavior when playing a simplified version of the game informed by the model of this paper.

  10. This is related to immunity to group manipulations in models discussed by Bogomolnaia and Jackson (2002), Ehlers (2002), Juarez (2013), Papai (2004).

  11. The precise definition of self-enforcement is stated in Axiom 1.

  12. A transition correspondence is a mapping that defines which coalitions form over time. The precise definition is given in Sect. 2.

  13. For convenience, the power vector \(\pi \in {\mathbb {R}}^{N}_{+}\) can be normalized such that \(\sum _{i \in N} \pi _{i} =1\).

  14. However, this is a weak condition because games that do not satisfy this property has a Lebesgue measure equal to zero (See Jandoc and Juarez 2017; Acemoglu et al. 2008).

  15. Juarez et al. (2022) considers a more general version where power can be any arbitrary monotonic function.

  16. Our results can be easily adapted to require winning coalitions to have relative power larger than 50%, that is, \(\alpha \in [0.5,1)\).

  17. Cross-monotonicity is related to the axiom of smaller coalitions in Shenoy (1979). Dimitrov and Haake (2008) investigated coalition formation for games with this property.

  18. Note that these three sharing rules are cross-monotonic.

  19. A correspondence is continuous if for any sequence of power vectors \(\pi ^{1}, \pi ^{2}, \dots \rightarrow \pi ^{*}\) where \(S\in \phi (N, \pi ^{i}) \ \forall i\) and S is winning in \(\pi ^{*}\), then \(S\in \phi (N, \pi ^{*})\).

  20. We do not restrict which coalition will be selected from \(\phi (S^{t-1}, \pi ^{t-1})\). This allows our results to be more robust since the evolution of the game includes any potential path of coalitions such that \(S^{t}\in \phi (S^{t-1}, \pi ^{t-1})\) for all t.

  21. As long as cross-monotonicity is satisfied.

  22. Note that \(\phi ^{**}\) is well-defined because \({\bar{G}}\) is feasible. That is, if the game \((N,\pi )\) is SPM, then clearly, for any \(S\subset N\), the game \((S,\pi _S)\) is also SPM.


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Correspondence to Ruben Juarez.

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We appreciate the financial support from the AFOSR Young Investigator Program and the Philippine Center for Economic Development (PCED). Any errors or omissions are the authors’ own. We are grateful for the helpful comments from Daron Acemoglu, Anna Bogomolnaia, Vikram Manjunath, Hervé Moulin, Elena Iñarra, and seminar participants at the Econometric Society Conference in Mexico, Conference on Economic Design in Lund, Public Economic Theory Conference in Lisbon, Social Choice and Welfare Conference in Seoul, and the International Conference on Game Theory in Stony Brook .

A. Appendix: Proofs

A. Appendix: Proofs

Proof of Lemma  1


Consider the sets

$$\begin{aligned} A^u=\{S | S\in \phi (S, \pi ), |S|\le u\} \end{aligned}$$


$$\begin{aligned} B^u=\{T | T\in {\tilde{\phi }}(T, \pi ), |T|\le u\}. \end{aligned}$$

We will prove by induction on the size of u that \(A^u=B^u.\)

This is clearly true if \(u=1,\) because any singleton coalition is self-enforcing.

For the induction hypothesis, assume that \(A^{u-1}=B^{u-1}.\)

Consider \(S\in A^u.\) Then \(S\in \phi (S, \pi )\). Therefore, since \(\phi \) is minimalistic, there is no \(Q\subset S\) such that \(Q\in W_{(S, \pi )}\) and \(Q\in \phi (Q, \pi _{Q}).\)

Therefore, since \(A^{u-1}=B^{u-1}, \) there is no \(Q\subset S\) such that \(Q\in W_{(S, \pi )}\) and \(Q\in {\tilde{\phi }} (Q, \pi _{Q}).\)

Hence, \(S\in {\tilde{\phi }}(S, \pi )\) and \(S\in B^u.\) Thus \(A^u\subseteq B^u\).

We can similarly prove that \(B^u\subseteq A^u.\) \(\square \)

Proof of Proposition 1


Step 1. \(\phi ^*\) is SE and minimalistic.

Proof. To show SE, take any \(X \in \phi ^*(S, \pi )\). There are two cases: either \(X=S\) or \(X \in Q(S,\pi )\). If \(X=S\), then \(X \in \phi ^*(S, \pi )=\phi ^*(X, \pi _{X})\). If \(X \in Q(S,\pi )\), then \(X \in \phi ^*(X, \pi _{X})\) by definition of the set \(Q(S,\pi )\).

On the other hand, \(\phi ^*\) is minimalistic because \(\xi \) is cross-monotonic. That is, at the coalition formation game \((S, \pi )\), the set S is chosen only if \(Q(S,\pi )=\emptyset \).

Step 2. \(\phi ^*\) satisfies RAT.

Proof. Take \(T\in \phi ^*(S, \pi )\) and consider a coalition Z such that \(Z\in W_{(S, \pi )}\) such that \(Z\in \phi ^*(Z, \pi _{Z})\).

(\(\Rightarrow \)) First assume that \(Z\not \in \phi ^*(S, \pi ).\) Since \(T\in \phi ^*(S, \pi )\) we have that

$$\begin{aligned} T \in \displaystyle {\text {*}}{arg\,max}_{M \in Q(S, \pi )\cup \{S\}} R^\xi (M,\pi _M) \end{aligned}$$

Notice that Z is winning and self-enforcing within S, therefore \(Z\in Q(S, \pi )\cup \{S\}\). Moreover, since \(Z\not \in \phi ^*(S, \pi )\), we have that \(Z \not \in \displaystyle {\text {*}}{arg\,max}_{M \in Q(S, \pi )\cup \{S\}} R^\xi (M,\pi _M)\). Hence, \(R^\xi (T,\pi _T)>R^\xi (Z,\pi _Z)\).

(\(\Leftarrow \)) Now, assume that \(R^\xi (T,\pi _T)>R^\xi (Z,\pi _Z)\). Then, \(Z \not \in \displaystyle {\text {*}}{arg\,max}_{M \in Q(S, \pi )\cup \{S\}} R^\xi (M,\pi _M)\). Hence, \(Z \not \in \phi ^*(S, \pi )\)

Step 3. Consider any cross-monotonic sharing rule and transition correspondences \(\phi \) and \({\tilde{\phi }}\) that are self-enforcing and minimalistic. Then, the sets of coalitions that are self-enforcing coincide. That is,

$$\begin{aligned} \{S | S\in \phi (S, \pi )\}=\{T | T\in {\tilde{\phi }}(T, \pi )\}. \end{aligned}$$

Proof. The proof of this result is a straightforward consequence of Lemma 1.

Step 4. There exists a unique transition correspondence that meets SE and RAT.

Proof. Consider a transition correspondence \(\phi \) that is SE and RAT. Then, \(\phi \) is minimalistic because the sharing rule is cross-monotonic. We will show that \(\phi =\phi ^*.\)

Since \(\phi \) and \(\phi ^*\) are SE and RAT, by step 3, we have,

$$\begin{aligned} \{T | T\in \phi (T, \pi _T)\}=\{T | T\in \phi ^*(T, \pi _T)\} \end{aligned}$$

Suppose \(X\in \phi (X, \pi )\). Then, by equation 2, \(X\in \phi ^*(X, \pi )\). By RAT, for any \(S\subset X\), \(S\ne X\), then \(S\not \in \phi (X,\pi )\). Hence, \(\phi (X, \pi )=\phi ^*(X, \pi ).\)

On the other hand, suppose \(S\in \phi (X, \pi )\), where \(S\not =X\). Then, by RAT, \(\xi _i(S,\pi _S)\ge \xi _i(T,\pi _T)\) for \(i\in S\cap T\) for any coalition T such that \(T\in \phi (T, \pi _T)\) and \(T\in W_{(X,\pi )}\). Therefore, by consistent ranking, \(R^\xi (S,\pi _S)\ge R^\xi (T,\pi _T)\) for any coalition T such that \(T\in \phi (T, \pi _T)\) and \(T\in W_{(X,\pi )}\). Hence, \(S\in \phi ^*(X, \pi )\) and \(\phi (X, \pi )\subset \phi ^*(X, \pi )\). We could similarly show that \(\phi ^*(X, \pi )\subset \phi (X, \pi ).\) Therefore, \(\phi (X, \pi )=\phi ^*(X, \pi ).\)

Step 5. \(\phi ^{*}\) is superior to any transition correspondence that is SE and minimalistic.

Proof. We prove this step by contradiction. Suppose \(\phi ^{*}\) is not superior to the SE and minimalistic transition correspondence \({\hat{\phi }}\). Then, there exists a game \((N, \pi )\) such that \(S, T \subset N\) where \(S\in \phi ^{*}(N,\pi )\) and \(T\in {\hat{\phi }}(N,\pi )\) such that \(\xi _i(T,\pi _T)\ge \xi _{i}(S,\pi _S)\) for some \(i\in T\cap S\).

By step 3, since T is self-enforcing for \({{\hat{\phi }}}\), it follows that it is also self-enforcing for \(\phi ^*.\) Therefore, \(T\in Q(N, \pi )\).

Since \(T\not \in \phi ^{*}(N,\pi )\), it follows that \(T \not \in \displaystyle {\text {*}}{arg\,max}_{M \in Q(N, \pi )\cup \{N\}} R^\xi (M,\pi _M)\). Since \(S \in \phi ^{*}(N,\pi )\), it follows that \(S \in \displaystyle {\text {*}}{arg\,max}_{M \in Q(N, \pi )\cup \{N\}} R^\xi (M,\pi _M)\). Since S and T are winning within N (by the definition of a transition correspondence), we have \(T\cap S\ne \emptyset \). Therefore, \(R^\xi (S,\pi _{S})>R^\xi (T,\pi _T)\), which implies that \(\xi _{i}(S, \pi _S)>\xi _{i}(T, \pi _T)\) for \(i\in T\cap S\). This is a contradiction.

\(\square \)

Proof of Proposition 2


We prove this result in three steps.

Step 1. Suppose \(\phi \) and \({\tilde{\phi }}\) are transition correspondences that satisfy SE and RAT under the sharing rule \(\xi \). Then, \(\phi ={\tilde{\phi }}\).

Proof. Suppose there is a game \((N,\pi )\) such that \(\phi (N,\pi )\not ={\tilde{\phi }}(N,\pi )\). Without loss of generality, let \(T\in {\tilde{\phi }}(N,\pi )\) and \(T\not \in \phi (N,\pi )\). Since RAT implies MIN, by Lemma 1, the set of self-enforcing coalitions generated under \(\phi \) and \({\tilde{\phi }}\) coincide. Since T was not chosen in \(\phi \), by rationality, there exists \(S\in SEC(N,\pi )\) such that \(\xi _i(S,\pi _S)> \xi _i(T,\pi _T)\) for some \(i\in T\cap S\). By rationality of \({\tilde{\phi }}\), \(\xi _i(T,\pi _T)\ge \xi _i(S,\pi _S)\) for all \(i\in T\cap S\). This is a contradiction.

Step 2. Show that \(UD^{\xi }(N,\pi )\not =\emptyset \).

Since \(\phi \) is a transition correspondence, \(\phi (N,\pi )\not =\emptyset \). Let \(T\in \phi (N,\pi )\). Since \(\phi \) satisfies SE, \(T\in SEC(N,\pi )\). By RAT, for all \(S\in SEC(N,\pi )\), \(\xi _i(T,\pi _T)\ge \xi _i(S,\pi _S)\) for all \(i\in S\cap T\). Therefore, \(T\in UD^{\xi }(N,\pi )\).

Step 3. We show that \(\phi (N,\pi )= UD^{\xi }(N,\pi )\) satisfies SE and RAT.

If \(T\in {\phi }(N,\pi )= UD^{\xi }(N,\pi )\), by Definition 6, \(T\in SEC(N,\pi )\). Thus, \(\phi \) satisfies SE.

Let coalition \(T\in \phi (N,\pi )=UD^{\xi }(N,\pi )\). By definition of \(UD^{\xi }(N,\pi )\), we have that \(\xi _i(T,\pi _T)\ge \xi _i(S,\pi _S)\) for all \(S\in SEC(N,\pi )\) and for all \(i\in S\cap T\). Thus, \(\phi \) satisfies RAT.

\(\square \)

Proof of Proposition 3


To prove part (i), let the game be \((N,\pi )\in {\bar{G}}\) and assume combination sharing and fix a \(\lambda \).

For any game \((S,\pi _{S})\subset (N,\pi )\), agent i’s share in a coalition S is:

$$\begin{aligned} \xi _{i}(S,\pi _{S})=\lambda \cdot \frac{1}{|S|} + (1-\lambda )\cdot \frac{\pi _{i}}{\pi (S)} \end{aligned}$$

Since \((N,\pi )\in {\bar{G}}\), if there exists another game \((T,\pi _{T})\subset (N,\pi )\) such that \(|S|<|T|\), it must also be true that \(\pi (S)<\pi (T)\). Therefore,

$$\begin{aligned} \xi _{i}(S,\pi _{S})>\xi _{i}(T,\pi _{T}) \end{aligned}$$

for all agents in \(i\in S\cap T\).

Hence, we can construct a ranking function

$$\begin{aligned} R^{CS^{\lambda }}(S,\pi )=\lambda \cdot \frac{1}{|S|} + (1-\lambda )\cdot \frac{\pi _{i}}{\pi (S)} \end{aligned}$$

where coalitions with smaller size (and therefore lesser power by size-power monotonicity) will yield a higher value of \(R^{CS^{\lambda }}(S,\pi )\). Hence, the sharing rule satisfies consistent ranking, and by Proposition 1, the transition correspondence \(\phi ^{**}\) is the unique transition correspondence satisfying SE and RAT over the domain of SPM games.

To prove part (ii), assume a transition correspondence \(\phi \) that satisfies SE and RAT. Suppose we have two arbitrary coalitions S and T, such that \((S,\pi _{S})\in {\bar{G}}\) and \((T,\pi _{T})\in {\bar{G}}\). With combination sharing, agents in the intersection of S and T will have a higher share in S whenever

$$\begin{aligned} \xi _{i}(S,\pi _{S})=\lambda \frac{1}{|S|}+\left( 1-\lambda \right) \frac{\pi _{i}}{\pi (S)}>\lambda \frac{1}{|T|}+\left( 1-\lambda \right) \frac{\pi _{i}}{\pi (T)}=\xi _{i}(T,\pi _{T}) \end{aligned}$$

As \(\lambda \rightarrow 1\), \(\xi _{i}(S,\pi _{S})\rightarrow \frac{1}{|S|}\) and \(\xi _{i}(T,\pi _{T})\rightarrow \frac{1}{|T|}\). Hence to maintain the inequality, it must be true that \(|S|<|T|\). As \(\lambda \rightarrow 0\), \(\xi _{i}(S,\pi _{S})\rightarrow \frac{\pi _{i}}{\pi (S)}\) and \(\xi _{i}(T,\pi _{T})\rightarrow \frac{\pi _{i}}{\pi (T)}\). Hence to maintain the inequality, it must be true that \(\pi (S)<\pi (T)\). Therefore, for a ranking function \(R^{CS^{\lambda }}\) to exist for all values of \(\lambda \) and for all games in \({\bar{G}}\), we should have that for any two coalitions S and T, such that \((S,\pi _{S})\in {\bar{G}}\) and \((T,\pi _{T})\in {\bar{G}}\), if \(|S|<|T|\) then \(\pi (S)<\pi (T)\).

The proof that \(\phi =\phi ^{**}\) is similar to Step 4 in the proof of Proposition 1, restricted to the domain of SPM games.

\(\square \)

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Jandoc, K., Juarez, R. Generalized consistent ranking and the formation of self-enforcing coalitions. Rev Econ Design (2023).

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