Econometrica: May 2005, Volume 73, Issue 3

Complexity and Competition

https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-0262.2005.00595.x
p. 739-769

Douglas Gale, Hamid Sabourian

Extensive‐form market games typically have a large number of noncompetitive equilibria. In this paper, we argue that the complexity of noncompetitive behavior provides a justification for competitive equilibrium in the sense that if rational agents have an aversion to complexity (at the margin), then maximizing behavior will result in simple behavioral rules and hence in a competitive outcome. For this purpose, we use a class of extensive‐form dynamic matching and bargaining games with a finite number of agents. In particular, we consider markets with heterogeneous buyers and sellers and deterministic, exogenous, sequential matching rules, although the results can be extended to other matching processes. If the complexity costs of implementing strategies enter players’ preferences lexicographically with the standard payoff, then every equilibrium strategy profile induces a competitive outcome.

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