A Theory of Influence: The Strategic Value of Public Ignorance
29 Pages Posted: 3 Feb 2005
Date Written: January 2005
We analyze an agency model where one individual decides how much evidence he collects. We assume that he has free access to information, but all the news acquired become automatically public. Conditional on the information disclosed, a second individual with conflicting preferences undertakes an action that affects the payoff of both agents. In this game of incomplete but symmetric information, we show that the first individual obtains rents due to his superior ability to decide whether to collect or forego evidence, i.e., due to his control in the generation of (public) information. We provide an analytical characterization of these rents, that we label "rents of public ignorance". They can be interpreted as, for example, the degree of influence that a chairman can exert on a committee due exclusively to his capacity to decide whether to keep discussions alive or terminate them and call a vote. Last, we show that similar insights are obtained if the agent decides first how much private information he collects and then how much of this information he transmits to the other agent.
Keywords: principal-agent, incomplete and symmetric information, learning, experimentation, optimal stopping rule, informational rents, information control, public ignorance
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