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In search of an evolutionary edge: trading with a few, more, or many


  • Stark, Oded
  • Behrens, Doris A.


Consider a population of farmers who live around a lake. Each farmer engages in trade with his m adjacent neighbors, where m is termed the "span of interaction." Trade is governed by a prisoner’s dilemma "rule of engagement." A farmer’s payoff is the sum of the payoffs from the m prisoner’s dilemma games played with his m/2 neighbors to the left, and with his m/2 neighbors to the right. When a farmer dies, his son takes over. The son who adheres to his father’s span of interaction decides whether to cooperate or defect by considering the actions taken and the payoffs received by the most prosperous member of the group comprising his father and his father’s m trading partners. Under a conventional structure of payoffs, it is shown that a large span of interaction is detrimental to the long-run coexistence of cooperation and defection, and conditions are provided under which the social outcome associated with the expansion of trade when individuals trade with a few is better than that when they trade with many. Under the stipulated conditions it is shown, by means of a static comparative analysis of the steady state configurations of the farmer population, that an expansion of the market can be beneficial in one context, detrimental in another.

Suggested Citation

  • Stark, Oded & Behrens, Doris A., 2010. "In search of an evolutionary edge: trading with a few, more, or many," Discussion Papers 94280, University of Bonn, Center for Development Research (ZEF).
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:ubzefd:94280

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Merrill M. Flood, 1958. "Some Experimental Games," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 5(1), pages 5-26, October.
    2. Ellison, Glenn, 1993. "Learning, Local Interaction, and Coordination," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 61(5), pages 1047-1071, September.
    3. Robert Hoffmann & Nigel Waring, 1996. "The Localisation of Interaction and Learning in the Repeated Prisoner's Dilemma," Working Papers 96-08-064, Santa Fe Institute.
    4. Alós-Ferrer, Carlos & Weidenholzer, Simon, 2008. "Contagion and efficiency," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 143(1), pages 251-274, November.
    5. Tackseung Jun & Rajiv Sethi, 2007. "Neighborhood structure and the evolution of cooperation," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 17(5), pages 623-646, October.
    6. Friederike Mengel, 2009. "Conformism and cooperation in a local interaction model," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 19(3), pages 397-415, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Stark, Oded & Jakubek, Marcin, 2011. "Is population growth conducive to the sustainability of cooperation?," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 9(4), pages 443-451.

    More about this item


    Local interaction; Span of interaction; Imitation; Cooperation; Social welfare; Farm Management; D83; R12; O4;

    JEL classification:

    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • R12 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General Regional Economics - - - Size and Spatial Distributions of Regional Economic Activity; Interregional Trade (economic geography)
    • O4 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity

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