Title

Optimal Irrational Behavior

Document Type

Article

Journal/Book Title/Conference

Journalof Economic Behavior and Organizations

Volume

77

Publication Date

2011

First Page

286

Last Page

304

Abstract

Contrary to the usual presumption that welfare is maximized if consumers behave rationally, we show in a two-period overlapping generations model that there always exists a rule of thumb that can weakly improve upon the lifecycle/permanent-income rule in general equilibrium with irrational households. The market-clearing mechanism introduces a pecuniary externality that individual rational households do not consider when making decisions, but a publically shared rule of thumb can exploit this effect. For typical calibrations, the improvement of the welfare of irrational households is robust to the introduction of rational agents. Generalizing to a more realistic lifecycle model, we find in particular that the Save More Tomorrow(TM) (SMarT) Plan can confer higher lifetime utility than the permanent-income rule in general equilibrium.

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