We consider a general mechanism-design environment in which the planner faces incentive constraints such as the ones resulting from agents' private information or ability to take hidden actions. We study the properties of optimal mechanisms when some decisions are incentive-separable: A set of decisions is incentive-separable if, starting at some initial allocation, perturbing these decisions along agents' indifference curves preserves incentive constraints. We show that, under regularity conditions, the optimal mechanism allows agents to make unrestricted choices over incentive-separable decisions, given some prices and budgets. Using this result, we extend and unify the Atkinson-Stiglitz theorem on the undesirability of differentiated commodity taxes and the Diamond-Mirrlees production efficiency result. We also demonstrate how the analysis of incentive separability can provide a novel justification for in-kind redistribution programs similar to food stamps.
I am a 2nd year PhD student in Economics at Stanford GSB. I am interested in mechanism design, strategic communication, and markets for information. You can reach me at tokarski (at) stanford [dot] edu.
My academic website is here.
W toku | Work in progress
Incentive separability Przeczytaj streszczenie | Read abstract
A market-design response to the European energy crisis Przeczytaj streszczenie | Read abstract
Due to surges in gas and electricity prices in Europe, many households will struggle to heat their homes this winter. This paper provides high-level guidance on designing a relief policy in a way that optimally trades off equity and efficiency. We argue that, contrary to conventional economic intuitions, an optimal policy may involve directly controlling prices. Because governments do not have perfect information about households' needs, price controls could improve the targeting of relief through screening out the most vulnerable by offering them discounts for reducing consumption. This could be achieved by “threshold price caps" that lower the price of all energy units below some consumption threshold and price units above the threshold at a higher rate.