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Optimality and Natural Selection in Markets

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  • Lawrence E. Blume

    (Cornell University)

  • David Easley

    (Cornell University)

Abstract

Evolutionary arguments are often used to justify the fundamental behavioral postulates of competive equilibrium. Economists such as Milton Friedman have argued that natural selection favors profit maximizing firms over firms engaging in other behaviors. Consequently, producer efficiency, and therefore Pareto efficiency, are justified on evolutionary grounds. We examine these claims in an evolutionary general equilibrium model. If the economic environment were held constant, profitable firms would grow and unprofitable firms would shrink. In the general equilibrium model, prices change as factor demands and output supply evolves. Without capital markets, when firms can grow only through retained earnings, our model verifies Friedman's claim that natural selection favors profit maximization. But we show through examples that this does not imply that equilibrium allocations converge over time to efficient allocations. Consequently, Koopmans critique of Friedman is correct. When capital markets are added, and firms grow by attracting investment, Friedman's claim may fail. In either model the long-run outcomes of evolutionary market models are not well described by conventional General Equilibrium analysis with profit maximizing firms.

Suggested Citation

  • Lawrence E. Blume & David Easley, 1997. "Optimality and Natural Selection in Markets," GE, Growth, Math methods 9712003, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 09 Jul 1998.
  • Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpge:9712003
    Note: Type of Document - Acrobat; prepared with pdftex; pages: 33; figures: in a separate acrobat file.
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Blume, Lawrence E. & Easley, David, 1982. "Learning to be rational," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 26(2), pages 340-351, April.
    2. Sidney G. Winter, 1964. "Economic "Natural Selection" and the Theory of the Firm," LEM Chapters Series, in: Yale Economic Essays, pages 225-272, Laboratory of Economics and Management (LEM), Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies, Pisa, Italy.
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    4. Prajit K. Dutta & Roy Radner, 1999. "Profit Maximization and the Market Selection Hypothesis," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 66(4), pages 769-798.
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    6. Sidney G. Winter, 1971. "Satisficing, Selection, and the Innovating Remnant," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 85(2), pages 237-261.
    7. Blume, Lawrence & Easley, David, 1992. "Evolution and market behavior," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 58(1), pages 9-40, October.
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    Cited by:

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    2. Cherkashin, Dmitriy & Farmer, J. Doyne & Lloyd, Seth, 2009. "The reality game," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 33(5), pages 1091-1105, May.
      • Dmitriy Cherkashin & J. Doyne Farmer & Seth Lloyd, 2009. "The Reality Game," Papers 0902.0100, arXiv.org, revised Feb 2009.
    3. David Johnstone, 2007. "Economic Darwinism: Who has the Best Probabilities?," Theory and Decision, Springer, vol. 62(1), pages 47-96, February.
    4. Schipper, Burkhard C., 2009. "Imitators and optimizers in Cournot oligopoly," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 33(12), pages 1981-1990, December.
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    8. J. Doyne Farmer, 2002. "Market force, ecology and evolution," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 11(5), pages 895-953, November.
    9. Stephen Martin, 2018. "Behavioral antitrust," Chapters, in: Victor J. Tremblay & Elizabeth Schroeder & Carol Horton Tremblay (ed.), Handbook of Behavioral Industrial Organization, chapter 15, pages 404-454, Edward Elgar Publishing.
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    12. Weibull, Jörgen W., 1997. "What have we learned from Evolutionary Game Theory so far?," Working Paper Series 487, Research Institute of Industrial Economics, revised 26 Oct 1998.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    evolution; natural selection; equilibrium; incomplete markets;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D5 - Microeconomics - - General Equilibrium and Disequilibrium
    • D6 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics
    • D9 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics

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