Eric Rasmusen's Recent Papers (November 16, 2016)

Abstracts and downloads of all my published and unpublished papers are at and .
"Quasi-Concavity versus Concavity,'' with Christopher Connell, forthcoming, Journal of Convex Analysis. We show that if and only if a real-valued function f is strictly quasi-concave except possibly for a flat interval at its maximum, and furthermore belongs to an explicitly determined regularity class, does there exist a strictly monotonically increasing function g such that g of f is concave. We prove this sharp characterization of quasi-concavity for functions whose domain is any Euclidean space or even any arbitrary geodesic metric space.

"Coarse Grades,'' with Rick Harbaugh. Certifiers of quality often report only coarse grades to the public despite having measured quality more finely, e.g., "A" instead of "98". We show that using coarse grades can actually result in more information reaching the public, because it encourages low-quality individuals or firms to become certified. In our model the certifier aims to minimize public uncertainty over quality subject to the feasibility constraint of voluntary certification at a fixed cost.

Project: "Odd, Enter; Even, Out: A Peculiarity of Political Rivalry, Buyout, Blackmail, Extortion, and Nuisance Suit Games." Suppose the incumbent leader faces possible entry and attack by a sequence of rivals in a very simple game. For plausible parameters, no rivals enter in the unique equilibrium when the number of rivals is even and exactly one enters when the number is odd.

"If You Support Free Trade, Why Not Free Immigration?" Immigration increases the income of native capital more than it reduces the income of native labor, as is often the case with free trade in goods. Immigration differs, however, in that if the aggregate production function has diminishing returns to private capital and labor this easily reverses the conclusion. This is likely because public capitaló government and social capitaló is unpriced, and immigrant labor receives a portion of its benefit. Thus, whether the total income of natives rises or falls with immigration, even aside from consumption externalities and excess of spending over taxes, remains an open question.

"Law, Coercion, and Expression: A Review Essay on Frederick Schauer's The Force of Law and Richard McAdams's The Expressive Powers of Law." What is law and why do people obey it? Two books published in 2015, Frederick Schauer's The Force of Law and Richard McAdams's The Expressive Powers of Law, consider alternative motivations, Schauer skeptically and McAdams more sympathetically. While coercion, either directly or in its support of internalized norms, seems to dominate law qua law (and not as a mere expression of morality), a considerable portion of law serves other uses such as coordination, information provision, expression, and reduction of transaction costs.

"Understanding Shrinkage Estimators: From Zero to Oracle to James-Stein." Constructing an estimator by shrinking the sample mean results in a biased estimator, with an expected value less than the population mean. On the other hand, shrinkage reduces the estimator's variance and mean squared error. This paper tries to explain how that works. I start with estimating a single mean using the zero estimator and the oracle estimator, which is allowed to use in an ancillary role the very parameter being estimated. I continue with the unrelated-average estimator and the James-Stein estimator.

``Voter Ideology: Regression Measurement of Position on the Left-Right Spectrum,'' (with J. Mark Ramseyer). For scholars who need a measure of political preferences, a person's position on the ideological spectrum provides a good start. Typically, scholars identify that position through factor analysis on survey questions. The leading attitudinal surveys include a variable giving a respondent's self-identified ideology. Factor analysis assigns this variable no special prominence. In contrast to factor analysis, the regression approach assigns proper priority to self- identification; it lets us test whether voters identify their own ideology through identity-group variables; it avoids the bias introduced in choosing the issue variables to include in the factor analysis; and it identifies the issues that the average voter thinks best define ``liberal'' and ``conservative.''

``Identity Politics and Organized Crime in Japan: The Effect of Special Subsidies for Burakumin Communities,'' (with J. Mark Ramseyer). In 1969 the Japanese government launched a subsidy program (the SMA) targeted at the traditional outcastes known as the burakumin. The subsidies attracted the organized crime syndicates, who diverted funds for private gain. Although the resulting community centers and public housing improved burakumin infrastructure, they also lowered the cost to the public of identifying burakumin neighborhoods. We explore the effects of the termination of the program in 2002 by integrating 30 years of modern municipality data with a 1936 census of burakumin. Outmigration from municipalities with more burakumin increased significantly after the end of the program. Real estate prices rose.

Project: "Machiavelli: The Han Fei of Italy?" (with Dan Zhao). 1,700 years before Machiavelli, Han Fei also put aside morality and emphasized maintaining order in a world where intrigues could not be prevented by education in virtue. Both were vilified over the centuries, but nonetheless had immense influence.

"Exclusive Dealing: Before, Bork, and Beyond," with J. Mark Ramseyer. Journal of Law and Economics (2015). Antitrust scholars have come to accept the basic ideas about exclusive dealing that Bork articulated in The Antitrust Paradox. Indeed, they have even extended his list of reasons why exclusive dealing can promote economic efficiency. Yet they have also taken up his challenge to explain how exclusive dealing could possibly cause harm, and have modelled a variety of special cases where it does. Some (albeit not all) of these are sufficiently plausible to be useful to prosecutors and judges.

"Lowering the Bar to Raise Up the Bar: Licensing Difficulty and Attorney Quality in Japan," Journal of Japanese Studies (2015) with J. Mark Ramseyer. A relaxation in licensing standards can increase the quality of those who enter the industry. The effect turns on the opportunity cost of preparing for licensing. Making the test easier can increase the quality of those passing by increasing the number willing to take the test. We explore the theoretical circumstances under which this can occur and the actual effect in Japan from 1992 to 2011.

"Leveraging of Reputation through Umbrella Branding: The Implications for Market Structure,'' Journal of Economics and Management Strategy, 25(2): 259-535 (Summer 2016).The Klein-Leffler model explains how fear of reputation loss can induce firms to produce high-quality experience goods. This paper shows that reputation can be leveraged across products, but only by a firm with a monopoly on at least one product. Such a firm, however, may be able to capture a market by using umbrella branding to make high quality credible at a lower price than the incumbent competitive firms. The expanding monopolist can do this without bundling, and if monopolists compete in leveraging, consumers are left better off than if the market remained competitive, in some cases even though the price rises.

The Economics of Regulation. I have notes for an undergraduate textbook on regulation. I start with 4 chapters of theory (supply-and- demand, market failure, government failure, discounting and life valuation) and have just 2 chapters of antitrust, with 6 more chapters on other topics. My aim, if I do end up trying to publish this, is to write a relatively short book (350 pages) with lots of photos and stories, skipping many topics and being interesting enough for someone to read for recreation.

"The Concealment Argument: Why No Proof for Godís Existence Will Be Found," Logic and Biblical evidence suggest that God wishes that some but not all humans become convinced of His existence and desires. If so, this suggests that attempts to either prove or disprove such things as God's existence, past miracles, or present supernatural intervention are doomed to failure, because God could and would take care to evade any such efforts.