Sunday, January 26, 2014

coordination and liquidity

Effortless "coordination" requires coincidence — Jevons's "double coincidence of wants", for example. Even Jevons understated the problem in the real world, where typically the details will need to be coordinated between buyer and seller; I may most prefer a red 1.3 cubic foot 1000 watt microwave, and find a black 1.2 cubic foot 1100 watt microwave that is good enough; sellers will accommodate what buyers want to varying degrees, but the costs associated with providing each buyer exactly what that buyer wants (frequently giving up economies of scale in the process) often dwarf the value the buyer would put on that.

I want to record some examples:
  • men's suits can be bought off the rack in various sizes but may also, much more expensively, be custom tailored
  • an employer may find it useful to have an employee who can be called in at a moment's notice to deal with an unexpected issue, while an employee may well prefer to have work hours that are limited to certain hours in the day or certain days in the week
  • a buyer might incur a sudden desire to buy something at a different time from that at which the seller finds most convenient to produce it; one or both will have to change the timing of the transaction to suit the other
In some ways the second example here is a special case of a more general subgroup of details on which to coordinate, namely that one party or the other will take the brunt in various ways of unexpected developments; each side would like to be able to plan ahead, and one or both of them will to some extent give up that ability, but presumably in such a way that the deal as a whole is still worth doing to both parties. The third example is similar, although it's a little bit hard to construe it exactly in that set, as the "unexpected event" is the desire of the other agent to do the deal in the first place. I should probably think a bit more about that, probably in the context of repeated/ongoing relationships between buyers and sellers.

I've been thinking about "market liquidity" as essentially a coordination issue, but in the context of the ideas presented here, it seems that what in finance is referred to as "liquidity providing" generally amounts to "conceding flexibility/choice/the ability to plan", and "liquidity taking" generally amounts to "taking advantage of the flexibility offered by someone else". In the context of financial market microstructure it's pretty clear that liquidity provision is in a lot of ways like writing an option that is, at least most obviously, being given away for free; to some extent what I'm trying to do here is to note that the phenomenon is somewhat more general — though especially outside of finance, where heterogeneity is less pervasive than in most markets — and that the final decision to execute a deal (and perhaps to choose its timing) is only one way in which the specifics of a deal will only be fully coordinated when at least one of the parties is willing to go along with something other than what might have been that party's first choice.

1 comment:

dWj said...

Note that standards and frequent batch auctions and so on essentially eliminate the flexibility for both parties, though typically for a reason: it may facilitate coordination along some other dimension (e.g. making markets "thicker" in the case of standardization) or reduce adverse selection issues (making markets "safer" in Roth's lingo). Adverse selection is essentially a case of asymmetric information making the provision of liquidity more expensive (ex ante) than its consumption.