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Exchange and Specialization as a Discovery Process

  • Sean Crockett
  • Vernon Smith
  • Bart Wilson

    ()

    (Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science, George Mason University)

In this paper we study the performance of an economic environment that can support specialization if the participants implement and develop some system of exchange. We define a closed economy in which the participants must discover the ability to exchange, implement it, and ascertain what they are comparatively advantaged in producing. Many people demonstrate the ability to find comparative advantage, capture gains from trade, and effectively choose production that is consistent with the choices of others. However, many do not become specialists, even though full efficiency can only be achieved if everyone does so. Near-full efficiency does occur bilaterally in these economies, typically because some individuals have entered a stable trading relationship with a specialist in the other good. Such pairing does not necessarily give impetus to the formation of other pairs, nor are pairs open to the inclusion of a third party. We explore various treatments to provide insight into the conditions that might foster the growth of specialization and exchange within this austere institutional framework. We find one treatment that achieves high levels of efficiency in half of the sessions.

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Paper provided by George Mason University, Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science in its series Working Papers with number 1002.

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Length: 36 pages
Date of creation: May 2006
Date of revision: May 2006
Handle: RePEc:gms:wpaper:1002
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  1. Greif, Avner, 1993. "Contract Enforceability and Economic Institutions in Early Trade: the Maghribi Traders' Coalition," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(3), pages 525-48, June.
  2. Sean Crockett & Vernon Smith & Bart Wilson, 2006. "Exchange and Specialization as a Discovery Process," Working Papers 1002, George Mason University, Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science, revised May 2006.
  3. Daniel Houser & David Reiley & Michael Urbancic, 2004. "Checking Out Temptation: An Natural Experiment with Purchases at the Grocery Register," Working Papers 1001, George Mason University, Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science, revised Nov 2008.
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