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Second-order Price Dynamics: Approach to Equilibrium with Perpetual Arbitrage

Eric Kemp-Benedict

posted on 29 February 2012

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The notion that economies should normally be in equilibrium is by now well-established; equally well-established is that economies are almost never precisely in equilibrium. Using a very general formulation, we show that under dynamics that are second-order in time a price system can remain away from equilibrium with permanent and repeating opportunities for arbitrage, even when a damping term drives the system towards equilibrium. We also argue that second-order dynamic equations emerge naturally when there are heterogeneous economic actors, some behaving as active and knowledgeable arbitrageurs, and others using heuristics. The essential mechanism is that active arbitrageurs are able to repeatedly benefit from the suboptimal heuristics that govern most economic behavior.