Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Market as a satisficing mechanism for finding local minima - where did I get this from?

A few months ago I fell into conversation with an exotic person -- someone young. This one had fallen into a familiar trap; he'd confused The Market with The Moral.

Bush and the GOP were, of course, lost down that rabbit hold eons ago.

Anyway, being pompous prone, I launched into a lecture about how markets are systems for developing "good enough" (satisficing) solutions to complex problems. They find "local minimal", not some magical optimal solution that's the best of all possible worlds.

This ability, of course, is miraculous. The Market is the best way we have to find the local minima. The role of society, and sometimes government, is to decide that the "minima" is not good enough, and to perturb the market into finding another, perhaps better, solution. Sometimes we even think we know where the perturbation should be directed.

There were two problems with my dissertation. One was that I'm pretty sure he didn't (care to?) understand a word of it. More importantly, I fear I was more-or-less making it up.

I say "more-or-less" because I think I read this sometime, but in the months since that conversation I've not come across a reasonable reference. This "more-or-less" business comes from reading a lot but having an average memory and a creative imagination -- I can't reliably separate what I've read from what I've invented.

I tried a search: market "local minima" "good enough" satisficing solution economics but only found some papers on AI problem solving.

Can someone point me to a reference?

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