Since Coase’s paper on the firm, transaction costs have occupied much attention as a field of economic inquiry. Yet, with few exceptions, neoclassical theory has failed to integrate transaction costs into its core. The dominant mode of theorizing depends upon Brouwer fixed points which cannot integrate transaction costs in more than a superficial manner. Agent-based modeling presents an opportunity for researchers to investigate the nature of transaction costs and integrate them into the core of economic theory.
To the extent that transaction costs reduce economic efficiency, these costs provide opportunities for entrepreneurs to earn a profit by reducing these costs. We employ an extension of Epstein and Axtell’s (1996) Sugarscape to demonstrate this point one type of transaction costs: search costs. When agents do not face the cost of finding a trading partner, the system quickly reaches a steady state with tightly constrained prices regardless of agent production strategies. When search costs are present, entrepreneurs may use competing strategies for production and exchange that allow them to earn higher revenues than they would earn otherwise. These cost reducing innovations tend to promote concatenate coordination (Klein 2012). In our model, search costs are tied to consumption rates of our agents. The agent’s production strategies represent technology in the form of mental models (Denzau and North 1994) that shape agent action with regard to the agent’s environment. The success of these are dependent on their ability to overcome search costs. Finally, we find that the average profit, or market return, earned by each of these mental structures tends to equalize as a result of competition.