Title

Default Penalty as a Selection Mechanism among Multiple Equilibria

Document Type

Discussion Paper

Publication Date

10-1-2009

CFDP Number

1730R

CFDP Revision Date

2012-12-01

CFDP Pages

37

Abstract

Closed exchange and production-and-exchange economies may have multiple equilibria, a fact that is usually ignored in macroeconomic models. Our basic argument is that default and bankruptcy laws are required to prevent strategic default, and these laws can also serve to provide the conditions for uniqueness. In this paper, we report experimental evidence on the effectiveness of this approach to resolving multiplicity: a society can assign default penalties on fiat money so that the economy selects one of the equilibria. Our data show that the choice of default penalty takes the economy close to the chosen equilibrium. The theory and evidence together reinforce the idea that accounting, bankruptcy and possibly other aspects of social mechanisms play an important role in resolving the otherwise mathematically intractable challenges associated with multiplicity of equilibria in closed economies.

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