Sep 11, 2012

19 comments

Edit: for reasons given in the comments, I don't think the question of what circular preferences actually do is well defined, so this an answer to a wrong question.

If I like Y more than X, at an exchange rate of 0.9Y for 1X, and I like Z more than Y, at an exchange rate of 0.9Z for 1Y, and I like X more than Z, at an exchange rate of 0.9X for 1Z, you might think that given 1X and the ability to trade X for Y at an exchange rate of 0.95Y for 1X, and Y for Z at an exchange rate of 0.95Z for 1Y, and Z for X at an exchange rate of 0.95X for 1Z, I would trade in a circle until I had nothing left.

But actually, if I knew that I had circular preferences, and I knew that if I had 0.95Y I would trade it for (0.95^2)Z, which I would trade for (0.95^3)X, then actually I'd be trading 1X for (0.95^3)X, which I'm obviously not going to do.

Similarly, if the exchange rates are all 1:1, but each trade costs 1 penny, and I care about 1 penny much much less than any of 1X, 1Y, or 1Z, and I trade my X for Y, I know I'm actually going to end up with X - 3 cents, so I won't make the trade.

Unless I can set a Schelling fence, in which case I will end up trading once.

So if instead of being given X, I have a 1/3 chance of each of X, Y, and Z, I would hope I wouldn't set a Schelling fence, because then my 1/3 chance of each thing becomes a 1/3 chance of each thing minus the trading penalty. So maybe I'd want to be bad at precommitments, or would I precommit not to precommit?