Costs of Financial Innovation

In “Golden Eggs and Hyperbolic Discounting”, the author argues that the liquidity brought by modern finance is not a good thing.

By enabling the consumer to instantaneously borrow against illiquid assets, financial innovation eliminates the possibility for partial commitment. This has two effects on the welfare of the current self. First, the current self no longer faces a self-imposed liquidity constraint and can therefore consume more in its period of control. Second, future selves are also no longer liquidity constrained and may also consume at a higher rate out of the wealth stock that they inherit. The first effect makes the current self better off. The second effect makes the current self worse off (since the current self would like to constrain the consumption of future selves).

Golden Eggs and Hyperbolic Discounting, David Laibson, The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Vol. 112, No. 2, In Memory of Amos Tversky (1937-1996) (May, 1997) , pp. 443-477.

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