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Public Decision-Making Processes and Asymmetry of Information

Public Decision-Making Processes and Asymmetry of Information

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The issue of asymmetric information and public decision-making has been widely explored by economists. Most of the traditional analysis of public sector activities has been reviewed to take account of the different incentive problems arising from an asymmetric distribution of relevant information among the actors of the public decision-making process. A normative approach has been developed, mainly employing the principal agent paradigm to design incentive schemes which tackle adverse selection and moralhazard problems within public organizations. Still, this analysis is under way in many fields of public economics. However, a debate is ongoing on the theoretical limitations of this approach and on its relevance for the actual public sector activities.Public Decision-Making Processes and Asymmetry of Information encompasses different contributions to these issues, on both theoretical and practical areas. The innermost problem in the current discussion arises from the fact that this normative analysisis firmly rooted in the complete contracting framework, with the consequence that, despite the analytical complexities of most models, their results rely on very simplified assumptions. Most complexities of the organization of public sector, and more generally, of writing "contracts", are therefore swept away. Once the need for an incomplete contracting approach is recognized, the question becomes how to relax some of the assumptions characterizing the complete contracting framework, without getting ad hoc results. The Introduction to this book, written by Jean Jacques Laffont, sets the general grid to interpret the position of its papers in this debate. The four papers in Part 1 of the book are devoted to developing the analysis of some of the theoretical issues mentioned in the Introduction. Part 2 is devoted to discussing the applications of the theory to different public sector activities.