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Cobweb dynamics and price dispersion in illicit drug markets

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  • Caulkins, Jonathan P.
  • Baker, David
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    Abstract

    Extreme price dispersion is a hallmark of illegal drug markets, and this apparent contradiction to the law of one price has long puzzled drug market economists. We propose a novel explanation for this dispersion: the coupling of dealers' unwillingness to hold inventory with dealers' imperfect foresight concerning future prices and/or random lead times when "ordering" drugs from higher-level suppliers. Unwillingness to hold inventory means drug markets might operate consistent with a cobweb model. The classic cobweb model was inspired by the observation of cyclic (typically annual) fluctuations in commodity prices. However, with minor changes that make the model more realistic the resulting price trajectories can be highly variable or even chaotic, not just periodic. Cobweb dynamics can also amplify the variability created by supply chain disruptions.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Socio-Economic Planning Sciences.

    Volume (Year): 44 (2010)
    Issue (Month): 4 (December)
    Pages: 220-230

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:soceps:v:44:y:2010:i:4:p:220-230

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    Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/seps

    Related research

    Keywords: Price dispersion Drug markets Drug policy Chaos Cobweb model;

    References

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    1. Karen Clay & Ramayya Krishnan & Eric Wolff, 2001. "Prices and Price Dispersion on the Web: Evidence from the Online Book Industry," NBER Chapters, in: E-commerce, pages 521-539 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    8. Walsh, Patrick Paul & Whelan, Ciara, 1999. "Modelling Price Dispersion as an Outcome of Competition in the Irish Grocery Market," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 47(3), pages 325-43, September.
    9. Hommes, Cars H., 1998. "On the consistency of backward-looking expectations: The case of the cobweb," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 33(3-4), pages 333-362, January.
    10. Steven D. Levitt & Sudhir Alladi Venkatesh, 1998. "An Economic Analysis of a Drug-Selling Gang's Finances," NBER Working Papers 6592, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Fildes, Robert, 1992. "The evaluation of extrapolative forecasting methods," International Journal of Forecasting, Elsevier, vol. 8(1), pages 81-98, June.
    12. Salop, S & Stiglitz, J E, 1982. "The Theory of Sales: A Simple Model of Equilibrium Price Dispersion with Identical Agents," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 72(5), pages 1121-30, December.
    13. Goeree, Jacob K. & Hommes, Cars H., 2000. "Heterogeneous beliefs and the non-linear cobweb model," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 24(5-7), pages 761-798, June.
    14. Hommes, Cars H., 1991. "Adaptive learning and roads to chaos : The case of the cobweb," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 36(2), pages 127-132, June.
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