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Constrained suboptimality when prices are non-competitive


  • Herings, P. Jean-Jacques
  • Konovalov, Alexander


The paper addresses the following question: how efficient is the market system in allocating resources if trade takes place at prices that are not competitive? Even though there are many partial answers to this question, an answer that stands comparison to the rigor by which the first and second welfare theorems are derived is lacking. We first prove a "Folk Theorem" on the generic suboptimality of equilibria at non-competitive prices. The more interesting problem is whether equilibria are constrained optimal, i.e. efficient relative to all allocations that are consistent with prices at which trade takes place. We discuss an optimality notion due to Bénassy, and argue that this notion admits no general conclusions. We then turn to the notion of p-optimality and give a necessary condition, called the separating property, for constrained optimality: each constrained household should be constrained in each constrained market. If the number of commodities is less than or equal to two, the case usually treated in the textbook, then this necessary condition is also sufficient. In that case equilibria are constrained optimal. When there are three or more commodities, two or more constrained households, and two or more constrained markets, this necessary condition is typically not sufficient and equilibria are generically constrained suboptimal.

Suggested Citation

  • Herings, P. Jean-Jacques & Konovalov, Alexander, 2009. "Constrained suboptimality when prices are non-competitive," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 45(1-2), pages 43-58, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:mateco:v:45:y:2009:i:1-2:p:43-58

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Andersson, Tommy & Yang, Zaifu & Zhang, Dongmo, 2015. "How to efficiently allocate houses under price controls?," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 130(C), pages 97-99.
    2. Gerard van der Laan & Zaifu Yang, 2016. "An ascending multi-item auction with financially constrained bidders," The Journal of Mechanism and Institution Design, Society for the Promotion of Mechanism and Institution Design, University of York, vol. 1(1), pages 109-149, December.
    3. Hatfield, John William & Plott, Charles R. & Tanaka, Tomomi, 2016. "Price controls, non-price quality competition, and the nonexistence of competitive equilibrium," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 99(C), pages 134-163.
    4. Zaifu Yang & Dongmo Zhang, 2013. "On a Fundamental Property of Talman-Yang's Auction under Price Control," Discussion Papers 13/06, Department of Economics, University of York.
    5. Herings P.J.J., 2015. "Equilibrium and matching under price controls," Research Memorandum 001, Maastricht University, Graduate School of Business and Economics (GSBE).

    More about this item


    Non-competitive prices Welfare Pareto improvement;

    JEL classification:

    • D45 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design - - - Rationing; Licensing
    • D51 - Microeconomics - - General Equilibrium and Disequilibrium - - - Exchange and Production Economies
    • D61 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Allocative Efficiency; Cost-Benefit Analysis


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