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The competitive market paradox

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  • Gjerstad, Steven

Abstract

The competitive market model is a paradoxical. In perfect competition, agents cannot influence price: they only select an output quantity. Such passive behavior doesn’t conform to the intuitive notion of competition. This paper describes an experiment which demonstrates that near or even at a competitive equilibrium price, competition is undiminished. A substantial difference between the performance of sellers and buyers frequently results from this vigorous competition, even with low price variability and approximate efficiency. In double auction experiment sessions conducted with both automated and human agents, exogenous variation of the pace of asks and bids of automated agents demonstrates that the performance difference between sellers and buyers results primarily from a difference between the pace of asks and bids. If the buyers’ pace is slower than sellers’ pace, buyers make price concessions less frequently than sellers so that prices move below the equilibrium price. Then more buyers become active and fewer sellers remain active. Prices stabilize when changes to the numbers of active buyers and sellers offset the superior bargaining capability of one side or the other. In competitive equilibrium, to a first approximation agents are price takers, but that doesn’t preclude vigorous competition: competitive behavior moves to the dimension of bargaining pace.
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Suggested Citation

  • Gjerstad, Steven, 2007. "The competitive market paradox," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 31(5), pages 1753-1780, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:dyncon:v:31:y:2007:i:5:p:1753-1780
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Rubinstein, Ariel, 1982. "Perfect Equilibrium in a Bargaining Model," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(1), pages 97-109, January.
    2. Cason, Timothy N. & Friedman, Daniel, 1996. "Price formation in double auction markets," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 20(8), pages 1307-1337, August.
    3. Smith, Vernon L. & Williams, Arlington W., 1982. "The effects of rent asymmetries in experimental auction markets," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 3(1), pages 99-116, March.
    4. Gjerstad, Steven & Dickhaut, John, 1998. "Price Formation in Double Auctions," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 22(1), pages 1-29, January.
    5. Gode, Dhananjay K & Sunder, Shyam, 1993. "Allocative Efficiency of Markets with Zero-Intelligence Traders: Market as a Partial Substitute for Individual Rationality," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(1), pages 119-137, February.
    6. Smith, Vernon L, 1982. "Microeconomic Systems as an Experimental Science," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 72(5), pages 923-955, December.
    7. Williams, Arlington W & Smith, Vernon L, 1984. "Cyclical Double-Auction Markets with and without Speculators," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 57(1), pages 1-33, January.
    8. Easley, David & Ledyard, John., "undated". "Theories of Price Formation and Exchange in Double Oral Auctions," Working Papers 611, California Institute of Technology, Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences.
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    Cited by:

    1. Steven Gjerstad, 2013. "Price dynamics in an exchange economy," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 52(2), pages 461-500, March.
    2. Steven Gjerstad & Jason M. Shachat, 2007. "Individual Rationality and Market Efficiency," Purdue University Economics Working Papers 1204, Purdue University, Department of Economics.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C78 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Bargaining Theory; Matching Theory
    • C92 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Group Behavior
    • D41 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design - - - Perfect Competition
    • D44 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design - - - Auctions

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