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Extreme Walrasian Dynamics: The Gale Example in the Lab

  • Sean Crockett
  • Ryan Oprea
  • Charles Plott

We study David Gale's (1963) economy using laboratory markets. Tatonnement theory predicts prices will diverge from an equitable interior equilibrium toward infinity or zero depending only on initial prices. The inequitable equilibria determined by these dynamics give all gains from exchange to one side of the market. We show surprisingly strong support for these predictions. In most sessions one side of the market eventually outgains the other by more than 20 times, leaving the disadvantaged side to trade for mere pennies. We also find preliminary evidence that these dynamics are sticky, resisting exogenous interventions designed to reverse their trajectories. (JEL C92, D50)

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Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal American Economic Review.

Volume (Year): 101 (2011)
Issue (Month): 7 (December)
Pages: 3196-3220

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Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:101:y:2011:i:7:p:3196-3220
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  1. Anderson, Christopher M. & Plott, Charles R. & Shimomura, K.-I.Ken-Ichi & Granat, Sander, 2004. "Global instability in experimental general equilibrium: the Scarf example," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 115(2), pages 209-249, April.
  2. Hurwicz, Leonid & Radner, Roy & Reiter, Stanley, 1975. "A Stochastic Decentralized Resource Allocation Process: Part I," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 43(2), pages 187-221, March.
  3. Steven Gjerstad, 2007. "Price Dynamics in an Exchange Economy," Purdue University Economics Working Papers 1205, Purdue University, Department of Economics.
  4. Omar Al-Ubaydli & John A. List & Michael K. Price, 2010. "The Nature of Excess: Using Randomized Treatments to Investigate Price Dynamics," NBER Working Papers 16319, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Bergstrom, Ted C & Shimomura, Ken-Ichi & Yamato, Takehiko, 2008. "Simple Economies with Multiple Equilibria," University of California at Santa Barbara, Economics Working Paper Series qt6qv909xs, Department of Economics, UC Santa Barbara.
  6. Charles R. Plott & Jared Smith, 1999. "Instability of Equilibria in Experimental Markets: Upward-Sloping Demands, Externalities, and Fad-Like Incentives," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 65(3), pages 405-426, January.
  7. Hirota, Masayoshi & Hsu, Ming & Plott, Chrales R. & Rogers, Brian W., 2005. "Divergence, closed cycles and convergence in scarf environments: Experiments in the dynamics of general equilibrium systems," Working Papers 1239, California Institute of Technology, Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences.
  8. Kirman, Alan, 1989. "The Intrinsic Limits of Modern Economic Theory: The Emperor Has No Clothes," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 99(395), pages 126-39, Supplemen.
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