Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Axel Ockenfels is celebrated in the German press as an inderdisciplinary market designer

The Sueddeutsche Zeitung celebrates Axel Ockenfels as one of 24 German economists who matter.

Die Mauer muss weg--Axel Ockenfels hat die Grenzen seines Fachs nie akzeptiert. Deshalb überschreitet er sie in seiner Arbeit konsequent.

Google translate:
"The Wall must fall--Axel Ockenfels has never accepted the boundaries of his craft. Therefore, it exceeds them consistently in his work."

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Deceased organ donation in India

The Times of India has the story:  Many pledge, but long way to harvest

"Almost one lakh people have signed up for organ donation dur ing the annual organ donation day campaign of the Times of India, over the last three years. That could translate into several lakhs of lives transformed or saved if all the pledged organs could be retrieved. However, the organ donation process is yet to be streamlined and not all donors are able to donate their organs because of the lack of infrastructure and adequate awareness.

"Thousands have registered as donors in a span of a fortnight. But experience has shown that of thousands of people who pledge, only a few are likely to convert into donations after brain death.
"One of the most glaring inadequacies in the organ donation programmes is the lack of a national registry for organ donation, a centralised registry in the form of an electronic database, readily available to personnel involved in organ donation. Some states like Tamil Nadu and Kerala which have successful organ donation programmes in place have taken the initiative to set up their own centralised registry for organ donation, but a national-level database is still missing more than two decades after the Transplantation of Human Organs Act was enacted in 1994. In 2011, the 1994 law was amended to mandate various kinds of registries to track the organ transplantation system.The rules to implement the amendments were framed in March last year. Servicing large national-level registries would need support and financial commitment from the government. But almost Rs 150 crore allocated for it remained unutilized.
"Several people working to boost organ donation have pointed out that along with a registry for donors, there is the need for a recipients' registry too. The concept of cadaveric organ donation is built upon public trust which expects a system in place to ensure fair distribution of the organs donated. A centralized registry for recipients helps to build this trust as it guarantees fair allocation of organs for transplant. Lot more people would be willing to donate if they knew that there are strict rules dictating how transplant surgeons and coordinators determined who should be placed on the waiting list for organs and if the system was fully transparent, stated volunteers who work on campaigns for organ donation.
"Transplantation procedures are restricted almost entirely to private hospitals and thus remain beyond the poor and middle classes' reach. Even in public hospitals, where transplantations are infrequent, a liver transplant costs about Rs 12 lakh.With post-transplant costs of around Rs 10,000 a month, for immunosuppressive drugs to prevent rejection of the new organ, such procedures remain inaccessible for the poor. If no system is put in place by the government to help fund the cost of transplants, India's organ transplant programme would become one accessible only for a small section of those rich enough to afford the surgery and treatment costs. There is an urgent need for the government to come up with financial support to make transplant surgeries accessible for all who need them, even the poor."

Monday, August 31, 2015

Scott Kominer's market design course at Harvard

Market design is available again at Harvard, taught this year by Scott Kominers.

You can find his syllabus/reading list here.

And below is the course announcement:

Economics 2099 -- Harvard University -- Fall 2015 
This course explores the theory and practice of market design. Key topics include auctions, labor market matching, school choice programs, online markets, organ exchange systems, financial market design, and matching with contracts. The first half of the course will introduce market design and its technology; subsequent weeks will discuss recent papers alongside their classical antecedents.

Information on Logistics, Requirements, and Readings:
See the course syllabus (posted July 27, 2015).

Assignment Deadlines:
A short abstract of the research proposal will be due on October 6, 2015, and a short summary will be due on November 10, 2015. The final proposal will be due on December 10, 2015 (the last day of Reading Period).

September 8, 2015Introduction/Overview
September 15, 2015The Market Designer's Toolbox
September 22, 2015School ChoiceNikhil Agarwal, Parag Pathak
September 29, 2015Generalized Matching
October 13, 2015Auction Theory
October 20, 2015Internet MarketsBen Edelman, Andrey Fradkin
October 27, 2015Auctions in Practice
November 3, 2015Organ AllocationCarmen Wang
November 10, 2015Dynamic AllocationNeil Thakral, Utku Ünver
November 17, 2015Markets for Intellectual Property
November 24, 2015New HorizonsMike Luca, David Parkes, Ben Roth
December 1, 2015Student Talks/Course Wrap
Internal Harvard Website:

Sunday, August 30, 2015

A new journal for market design

Peter Biro brings to my attention the announcement of a new journal that seems to be focused at least partly on market design.  The journal's website and some of the editors (although not the ones I know) are associated with the University of York's Centre for Mechanism and Institution Design, which lists among its interests many areas in which elegant theory has led to practical design. I don't know more about the journal yet, and not all of the links work, but the composition of the Editorial Board suggests that it may have a chance of becoming an important journal, particularly if they have a plan for attracting good papers...

Here's the announcement...
Design Mechanisms and Institutions that Improve Efficiency, Equality, Prosperity, Stability and Sustainability in Society.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Economics is useful, diverse and fun: new video from the American Economics Association

Do you advise students on careers? The AEA has produced a video for prospective economists. The video is here and here. Below is the description:
August 28, 2015

The American Economics Association has launched an informational video entitled "A career in Economics . . . it's much more than you think." The 9-minute film is aimed at prospective or first-year students who may be investigating economics as a career option but are unclear how broadly a degree in economics can be applied.

The film makes effort to dispel entrenched misconceptions about who economists are and what they do. Economics can be broadly defined as the study of human behaviors aimed at finding solutions to help improve peoples' lives. Viewers are reminded that a degree in economics doesn't have to be about finance, banking, business, or government, . . . it can be useful to all individuals and can lead to many interesting and fulfilling career choices.

The video features four individuals offering insights on how economics can be a tool for solving very human problems and they provide some interesting perspectives on how they chose economics as a career path. The film also helps raise awareness about the need for more diverse voices in the field of economics.
  • Marcella Alsan, a physician of infectious disease, discusses why she needed to pursue a degree in economics to improve the lives of her patients.
  • Randall Lewis, a research scientist at Google, uses economics and "big data" as tools to improve the functioning of markets.
  • Britni Wilcher, a PhD student of economics, offers insight on some misconceptions about economists and factors influencing her career path decision.
  • Peter Henry, dean at the NYU Stern School of Business, points to the true nature of economics and the importance of diverse voices informing the field.

All economics departments and placement offices are invited to share this video with their students. Available free at the AEA website and on Vimeo

Friday, August 28, 2015

Law and market design at Duke

It looks like Kim Krawiec et al. are up to something interesting at Duke.

Duke Law Project on Law and Markets focuses on strengths and limits of markets

August 10, 2015Duke Law News
Duke Law faculty and students are undertaking a yearlong study of topics at the intersection of law and markets to investigate foundational questions about how law can address market inequalities, how market forces might be effective in areas where laws are ineffective, and the philosophical underpinnings of market-driven and regulatory approaches to various issues.
The Duke Law Project on Law and Markets, led by Professors Kimberly Krawiec and Joseph Blocher, includes faculty workshops, a colloquium for faculty and seminar students, a speaker series, and a symposium that will result in a volume of relevant scholarship in the journal Law and Contemporary Problems.
“Our goal is to bring the community together around a broad topic and to really think hard about it,” said Krawiec, the Kathrine Robinson Everett Professor of Law. “Joseph and I were excited about law and markets because of work that the two of us had been doing separately about the role of markets as they relate to law.”
Krawiec, a scholar of corporate law, securities, and derivatives, also studies non-traditional and taboo markets, such as those for babies — via sperm and egg donation, surrogacy, and adoption — and for transplant-ready human organs. In some of his recent works Blocher, a scholar of constitutional and property law, has contemplated interstate and sovereign border markets as a possible solution to a range of economic and political problems.
About 30 faculty members took part in the project’s first event on June 1, a discussion of a controversial 1970 article on blood donation, which argued that a system based on altruism is superior to a market-based system regulated by self-interest. “We had a very lively, two-hour discussion,” said Blocher. “It was a great kick-off.”
Other summer workshops have included a discussion of markets and environmental regulation led byJonathan Wiener, the William R. and Thomas L. Perkins Professor of Law and Professor of Environmental Policy and Professor of Public Policy, and one on the relationship between economic development and other freedoms led by Barak Richman, the Edgar P. and Elizabeth C. Bartlett Professor of Law and Professor of Business Administration.
The wide range of topics is, in many ways, the point of the overall inquiry, Krawiec said.
“It’s related to a broader notion of market design, which is popular with economists,” she said. “Lawyers have a role to play, because many of the objections to having markets operate in certain areas are things that can be dealt with by law.” The law, for example, can address inequalities by providing subsidies, she said.
“Markets involve more than money changing hands. A market is a mechanism for allocating scarce resources, and the law has a lot to say about how that should operate, given the various public policy goals we have.” That’s true, she said, of organ donation, “which is not a literal market, because it’s illegal to trade in organs.”
The Project on Law and Markets was inspired by the Duke Project on Custom and Law that occurred over the course of the 2011-2012 academic year and resulted in a symposium issue of the Duke Law Journalwith articles on such topics as customs in the art market, norms in kidney exchange programs, and how the Internal Revenue Service draws on custom to under-enforce portions of the tax code. The initiative sparked a number of scholarly collaborations and Blocher and Krawiec hope that success will be replicated in the current project.
“We’re hoping to connect people who might not otherwise be connected in dealing with problems of law, problems of scarcity, problems of inequality,” said Blocher. “Obviously the work that Jennifer Jenkins andJames Boyle do regarding the public domain and what goes into and what stays out of the market is hugely important and interesting, but other scholars might not connect it to their work. It might just be seen as a sort of walled-off, intellectual property issue.” Boyle, the William Neal Reynolds Professor of Law, is a leading scholar of intellectual property and the founder of the Center for the Study of the Public Domain, which Jenkins ’97 directs. 
The two-credit Law and Markets Colloquium will engage students in discussion of assigned readings and workshop presentations on law and markets. Along with the faculty workshops and symposium, it is likely to expose a range of assumptions and differences of opinion about the role of law and the role of markets, said Blocher. “People are going to have very different, maybe irreducible, normative visions about what’s good and proper for the use of money or other market incentives. But like any question of law, markets, or justice, we don’t anticipate a single answer.”
“It’s more about unearthing the questions we should be thinking about,” said Krawiec.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Assisted dying: the debate in England

The Telegraph has the latest:
‘There is nothing sacred about suffering’, insist faith leaders in assisted dying call--Bishops, priests and leading Rabbis break ranks with mainstream religious case opposition to assisted dying

"Religious teachings that elevate suffering and pain as something “sacred” should not be used to prevent terminally ill people taking their own lives, leading Christian and Jewish clerics have insisted.

"An alliance of bishops, priests and rabbis have broken ranks with the religious establishment to voice support for plans to change the law to allow a form of assisted suicide in the UK for the first time.

"In a letter to The Daily Telegraph, they argue that far from being a sin, helping terminally ill people to commit suicide should be viewed simply as enabling them to “gracefully hand back” their lives to God.

"There is, they insist “nothing sacred” about suffering in itself and no one should be “obliged to endure it”, they insist.

"Signatories of the letter, in support of a bill to be debated by MPs next month, include Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, who stunned the Church of England last year when he announced that he had changed his mind on the issue.
"MPs are due to debate an Assisted Dying Bill tabled by the Labour backbencher Rob Marris next month.

"It would allow people thought to have no more than six months to live and a “settled intention” to end their life to be allowed be given a lethal dose of drugs on the authority of two doctors.

While most of the major religious groups in the UK have voiced opposition, some polls suggest a majority of people who identify themselves with a faith are in favour of relaxing the law."