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Title: Undecidability in Macroeconomics (Preliminary Draft)
Authors: Chandra, Siddharth
Chandra, Tushar Deepak
Keywords: computer science
technical report
Issue Date: Apr-1993
Publisher: Cornell University
Abstract: In this paper, we study the difficulty of solving problems in economics. For this purpose, we adopt the notion of undecidability from recursion theory. We show that certain problems in economics are undecidable, i.e., cannot be solved by a Turing Machine, a device that is at least as powerful as any computational device that can be constructed [2]. In particular, we prove that even in finite closed economies subject to a variable initial condition, in which a social planner knows the behavior of every agent in the economy, certain important social planning problems are undecidable. Thus, it may be impossible to make effective policy decisions. Philosophically, this result formally brings into question the Rational Expectations Hypothesis, which assumes that each agent is able to determine what it should do if it wishes to maximize its utility. We show that even when an optimal rational forecast exists for each agent (based on the information currently available to it), agents may lack the ability to make these forecasts. For example, Lucas [7] describes economic models as "mechanical, artificial world(s), populated by ... interacting robots". Since any mechanical robot can be at most as computationally powerful as a Turing Machine, such economies are vulnerable to the phenomenon of undecidability.
Appears in Collections:Computer Science Technical Reports

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