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Stabilizing the economy: Market design and general equilibrium

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  • Jacob K. Goeree
  • Luke Lindsay

Abstract

We employ laboratory methods to study stability of competitive equilibrium in Scarf's economy (International Economic Review, 1960). Tatonnement theory predicts that prices are globally unstable for this economy, i.e. unless prices start at the competitive equilibrium they oscillate without converging. Anderson et al. (Journal of Economic Theory, 2004) report that in laboratory double auction markets, prices in the Scarf economy do indeed oscillate with no clear sign of convergence. We replicate their experiments and confirm that tatonnement theory predicts the direction of price changes remarkably well. Prices are globally unstable with adverse effects for the economy's efficiency and the equitable distribution of the gains from trade. We also introduce a novel market mechanism where participants submit demand schedules and prices are computed using Smale's global Newtonian dynamic (American Economic Review, 1976). We show that for the Scarf economy, submitting a competitive schedule, i.e. a set of quantities that maximize utility taking prices as given, is a weakly dominant strategy. The resulting outcome corresponds to the unique competitive equilibrium of the Scarf economy. In experiments that employ the schedule market, prices do not oscillate but instead converge quickly to the competitive equilibrium. Besides stabilizing prices, the schedule market is more efficient and results in highly egalitarian outcomes.

Suggested Citation

  • Jacob K. Goeree & Luke Lindsay, 2012. "Stabilizing the economy: Market design and general equilibrium," ECON - Working Papers 092, Department of Economics - University of Zurich.
  • Handle: RePEc:zur:econwp:092
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. McCabe, Kevin A & Rassenti, Stephen J & Smith, Vernon L, 1990. "Auction Institutional Design: Theory and Behavior of Simultaneous Multiple-Unit Generalizations of the Dutch and English Auctions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(5), pages 1276-1283, December.
    2. Smith, Vernon L., 2010. "Theory and experiment: What are the questions?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 73(1), pages 3-15, January.
    3. Timothy N. Cason & Daniel Friedman, 1997. "Price Formation in Single Call Markets," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 65(2), pages 311-346, March.
    4. Smith, Vernon L, et al, 1982. "Competitive Market Institutions: Double Auctions vs. Sealed Bid-Offer Auctions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 72(1), pages 58-77, March.
    5. Crockett, Sean & Spear, Stephen & Sunder, Shyam, 2008. "Learning competitive equilibrium," Journal of Mathematical Economics, Elsevier, vol. 44(7-8), pages 651-671, July.
    6. Anderson, Christopher M. & Plott, Charles R. & Shimomura, K.-I.Ken-Ichi & Granat, Sander, 2004. "Global instability in experimental general equilibrium: the Scarf example," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 115(2), pages 209-249, April.
    7. Sean Crockett, 2008. "Learning competitive equilibrium in laboratory exchange economies," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 34(1), pages 157-180, January.
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    Cited by:

    1. John D. Hey & Daniela Di Cagno, 2018. "Does money impede convergence?," World Scientific Book Chapters, in: Experiments in Economics Decision Making and Markets, chapter 18, pages 391-408, World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd..
    2. Sean Crockett, 2013. "Price Dynamics In General Equilibrium Experiments," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 27(3), pages 421-438, July.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Scarf economy; tatonnement; global Newtonian dynamic; instability; general equilibrium; market design;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • C92 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Group Behavior
    • D50 - Microeconomics - - General Equilibrium and Disequilibrium - - - General

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