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The Economics of Information in a World of Disinformation: A Survey Part 1: Indirect Communication

Working Paper #0

Joseph Stiglitz, Andrew Kosenko

Paper  344kb pdf

Stiglitz and Kosenko survey aspects of the intellectual development of the economics of information from the 1970s to today. We focus here on models where information is communicated indirectly through actions. Basic results, such as the failure of the fundamental theorems of welfare economics, the non-existence of competitive equilibrium, and the dependence of the nature of the equilibrium, when it exists, on both what information is available, and how information can be acquired, have been shown to be robust. Markets create asymmetries of information, even when initially none existed. While the earliest literature paid scarce attention to misinformation, subsequently it has been shown that governments can improve welfare, if disinformation is present, through fraud laws and disclosure requirements. Moreover, robust mechanism design enables agents and governments to better achieve their objectives, taking into account information asymmetries. On the other hand, market reforms that ignored their informational consequences may have lowered welfare. Surveying both theory and applications, we review the main insights of these literatures, and highlight key messages using nontechnical language.

About the Authors

Joseph Stiglitz
Initiative for Policy Dialogue (IPD)

Joseph E. Stiglitz is President of the Initiative for Policy Dialogue, and Chairman of the Committee on Global Thought at Columbia University. He is University Professor at Columbia, teaching in its Economics Department, its Business School, and its School of International and Public Affairs. He chaired the UN Commission of Experts on Reforms of the International Monetary and Financial System, created in the aftermath of the financial crisis by the President of the General Assembly. He is former Chief Economist and Senior Vice-President of the World Bank and Chairman of President Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisors. He was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics in 2001.

Andrew Kosenko

Andrew Kosenko is an Assistant Professor of Economics at the Department of Economics and Finance at the School of Management at Marist College. He received his PhD in economics from Columbia in 2018. Prior to Marist, he was a Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of Pittsburgh.

Publication Information

Type Working Paper
Program -
Posted 01/02/24
Download 344kb pdf
# Pages 50