| Peter Klein |
A few quick thoughts on today’s Nobel Prize announcement. More later, once better informed people, from whom we can steal ideas, have weighed in.
- Market design is basically the study of exchange without prices. As most of economics deals with prices, this is a somewhat specialized subfield. The best-known example, courtesy of Al Roth, deals with kidney exchanges. Most economists will tell you that the best way to deal with shortages of transplantable organs like kidneys is to legalize kidney sales. (My friend Andy Barnett and the late David Kaserman wrote extensively on this.) If, for whatever reason, that is infeasible — Roth notes that many people find such sales “repugnant” — then various matching algorithms may be better than nothing. Roth and colleagues have studied and compared these matching algorithms.
- To get up to speed, Roth’s 2007 article in Harvard Business Review is probably a good place to start. For more technical comments see Josh Gans and Alex Tabarrok, and. Knowledge Problem is my go-to source for this kind of stuff, so I’m eagerly awaiting the commentary there.
- We discussed market design at O&M in 2007.
- Shapley’s contribution’s to cooperative game theory underlie Roth’s work. It’s a bit trite to point this out, but I’ll point out anyway that the huge popularity of game theory over the last three decades, particularly in IO and business strategy, rely almost entirely on noncooperative game theory, while the cooperative branch has been somewhat neglected. But bargaining is clearly important for strategy, organization, and entrepreneurship, so look for increased interest in this branch.
- Someone pointed out that Roth appears to be the first economics blogger to win the Nobel. (I’m not counting Krugman, who’s not what I’d call an academic blogger.)
- Enthusiasm among my informal circle of professional friends is muted. One suggests that, rather than take cultural resistance to the price mechanism (e.g., for kidney allocation) as exogenous, scholars should work to overcome this resistance. Another calls this “one of the most boring prizes yet. At best it is a prize for some no doubt useful ideas in some small contexts of effecting coordination, but the real coordinating marvel is the market.” A third calls Shapley’s UCLA lectures on cooperative game theory “the most useless classes that I took in college. . . we would go through one division rule after another to see which axioms they satisfied. When I asked him how you picked between different division rules that satisfied the same axioms, Lloyd said that it all depended on what conclusion that you wanted to reach.”