Saturday, March 15, 2014

Free Markets, Choice, and Market Failures

For those interested in economics, I thought this statement was a good perspective - counter - on free markets.

"Assume that a number of people are engaged in a productive  activity--say, listening to a lecture. By some fluke, a hundred-dollar bill falls at the feet of each person present. Each individual has a choice: to stop paying attention and grab the bill at once, or to wait until the end of the lecture and then pick up the money. Although the latter option is more efficient (since it does not entail the disturbance of productive activity), it is not a Nash equilibrium. Given that everyone else is waiting, it pays each individual to bend down to gather up not only his hundred-dollar bill, but also that of his neighbor. But there is no real social gain from picking up the bill a few minutes earlier, and there is a real social cost. Many financial innovations that involve faster recording of transactions do little more than allow some individuals to pick up hundred-dollar bills faster, "forcing" others to follow suit (for a formal model see Stiglitz and Weiss 1990). Better financial markets may contribute to economic efficiency, but the extent to which they do so requires careful scrutiny. Improvements in secondary markets do not necessarily enhance the ability of the economy either to mobilize savings or to allocate capital."

Stiglitz, J. E. (1993). The role of the state in financial markets (No. 21). Institute of Economics, Academia Sinica.

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