Michael P. Wellman
Market price mechanisms from economics constitute a well-understood framework for coordinating decentralized decision processes with minimal communication. WALRAS is a general "market-oriented programming" environment for the construction and analysis of distributed planning systems, based on general-equilibrium theory. The environment provides basic constructs for defining computational market structures, and a procedure for deriving their corresponding competitive equilibria. In a particular realization of this approach for a simplified form of distributed transportation planning, we see that careful construction of the decision process according to economic principles can lead to effective decentralization, and that the behavior of the system can be meaningfully analyzed in economic terms.