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Individual Rationality and Market Efficiency

  • Steven Gjerstad
  • Jason M. Shachat

The demonstration by Smith [1962] that prices and allocations quickly converge to the competitive equilibrium in the continuous double auction (CDA) was one of the first – and remains one of the most important results in experimental economics. His initial experiment, subsequent market experiments, and models of price adjustment and exchange have added considerably to our knowledge of how markets reach equilibrium, and how they respond to disruptions. Perhaps the best known model of exchange in CDA market experiments is the random behavior in the “zero-intelligence” (ZI) model by Gode and Sunder [1993]. They conclude that even without trader rationality the CDA generates efficient allocations and “convergence of transaction prices to the proximity of the theoretical equilibrium price,” provided only that agents meet their budget constraints. We demonstrate that – by any reasonable measure – prices don’t converge in their simulations. Their budget constraint requires that a buyer’s currency never exceeds her value for the commodity, which is an unnatural restriction. Their conclusion that market efficiency results from the structure of the CDA independent of traders’ profit seeking behavior rests on their claim that the constraints that they impose are a part of the market institution, but this is not so. We show that they in effect impose individual rationality, which is an aspect of agents' behavior. Researchers on learning in markets have been misled by their interpretation of the ZI simulations, with deleterious effects on the debate on market adjustment processes.

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Paper provided by Purdue University, Department of Economics in its series Purdue University Economics Working Papers with number 1204.

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Length: 11 pages
Date of creation: Aug 2007
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:pur:prukra:1204
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Web page: http://www.krannert.purdue.edu/programs/phd

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  1. Vernon L. Smith, 1962. "An Experimental Study of Competitive Market Behavior," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 70, pages 322.
  2. Gjerstad, Steven, 2007. "The competitive market paradox," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 31(5), pages 1753-1780, May.
  3. John Conlisk, 1996. "Why Bounded Rationality?," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 34(2), pages 669-700, June.
  4. 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.
  5. Smith, Vernon L, 1982. "Microeconomic Systems as an Experimental Science," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 72(5), pages 923-55, December.
  6. Tesfatsion, Leigh S., 2002. "Agent-Based Computational Economics: Growing Economies from the Bottom Up," Staff General Research Papers 5075, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
  7. Antoni Bosch-Domènech & Joaquim Silvestre, 1996. "Credit constraints in general equilibrium: Experimental results," Economics Working Papers 105, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
  8. Easley, David & Ledyard, John., . "Theories of Price Formation and Exchange in Double Oral Auctions," Working Papers 611, California Institute of Technology, Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences.
  9. Hurwicz, Leonid & Radner, Roy & Reiter, Stanley, 1975. "A Stochastic Decentralized Resource Allocation Process: Part II," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 43(3), pages 363-93, May.
  10. John A. List, 2004. "Testing Neoclassical Competitive Theory in Multilateral Decentralized Markets," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(5), pages 1131-1156, October.
  11. Gjerstad, S. & Dickhaut, J., 1995. "Price Formation in Double Auctions," Papers 284, Minnesota - Center for Economic Research.
  12. Markose, Sheri & Arifovic, Jasmina & Sunder, Shyam, 2007. "Advances in experimental and agent-based modelling: Asset markets, economic networks, computational mechanism design and evolutionary game dynamics," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 31(6), pages 1801-1807, June.
  13. Evans, Dorla A, 1997. "The Role of Markets in Reducing Expected Utility Violations," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 105(3), pages 622-36, June.
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