Thursday, May 5, 2016

Burning ivory to educate the world about the illegal poaching of elephants


Kenya burns world's biggest ivory stockpile worth $105m in conservation effort

"Kenya set light to 105 tonnes of elephant ivory in the biggest burn in history on Saturday, aimed at crushing poaching and the illicit wildlife trade.

The country’s president set light to 11 pyres containing a total of 25,000 pieces of wildlife contraband including elephant tusks, rhino horns, exotic animal skins and medicinal bark.
"If sold on the black market, the tusks alone, from around 8,000 elephants, would fetch more than $105m. But the Kenyan authorities are burning burn the ivory to show the world it should have no value without a live elephant attached to it.
...
"Speaking to delegates at the Giants’ Club summit of conservation experts, Uhuru Kenyatta, the Kenyan president, said poaching was not just about animals, it was holding Africa back.

“There is convincing evidence poaching is aided by international criminal syndicates; it fuels corruption; it undermines the rule of law and security; it even provides funding for other trans-national crime,” he said.

“This directly threatens the capacity of our nations to achieve sustainable and meaningful socio-economic development.”

"Each year, between 20,000 and 33,000 elephants are thought to be lost to poaching, which is driven by a mainly Chinese market for their tusks to be carved into trinkets and jewellery.

"Despite millions of dollars in foreign aid and from local government budgets being poured into clamping down on poachers and criminal syndicates, elephants are still being killed faster than they are being born. As few as 470,000 African elephants are now thought to remain in the wild.

"This year so far, Kenya lost at least 94 elephants to poachers and, according to Dr Richard Leakey, the renowned palaeontologist and chair of the Kenyan Wildlife Service, the country’s pachyderm population remains in a “terrible, perilous state”.

We are burning the ivory because we believe ivory should be worthless. We believe not just in putting it out of economic reach but getting rid of it completely forever,” he said.

"Advertisements for the burn were broadcast on big screens onto Shanghai’s Bund building in its equivalent of Times Square and live-streamed on the internet accompanied by commentaries by some of the country’s best-known celebrities.

"Aisling Ryan, from the American charity WildAid which has focused on disrupting the Chinese market, said the Chinese word for “tusk” is the same as for “teeth” and many consumers had been unaware an elephant had to die for it to be harvested."

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Refugees: "no one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land"--from "Home" by Warsan Shire

I only belatedly came across the poem “Home” by Warsan Shire, from which the iconic line that is the title of this post comes...

“Home” by Warsan Shire

no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well
your neighbors running faster than you
breath bloody in their throats
the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory
is holding a gun bigger than his body
you only leave home
when home won’t let you stay.
no one leaves home unless home chases you
fire under feet
hot blood in your belly
it’s not something you ever thought of doing
until the blade burnt threats into
your neck
and even then you carried the anthem under
your breath
only tearing up your passport in an airport toilets
sobbing as each mouthful of paper
made it clear that you wouldn’t be going back.
you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land
no one burns their palms
under trains
beneath carriages
no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck
feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled
means something more than journey.
no one crawls under fences
no one wants to be beaten
pitied
no one chooses refugee camps
or strip searches where your
body is left aching
or prison,
because prison is safer
than a city of fire
and one prison guard
in the night
is better than a truckload
of men who look like your father
no one could take it
no one could stomach it
no one skin would be tough enough
the
go home blacks
refugees
dirty immigrants
asylum seekers
sucking our country dry
niggers with their hands out
they smell strange
savage
messed up their country and now they want
to mess ours up
how do the words
the dirty looks
roll off your backs
maybe because the blow is softer
than a limb torn off
or the words are more tender
than fourteen men between
your legs
or the insults are easier
to swallow
than rubble
than bone
than your child body
in pieces.
i want to go home,
but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home
unless home chased you to the shore
unless home told you
to quicken your legs
leave your clothes behind
crawl through the desert
wade through the oceans
drown
save
be hunger
beg
forget pride
your survival is more important
no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear
saying-
leave,
run away from me now
i dont know what i’ve become
but i know that anywhere
is safer than here

Monday, May 2, 2016

The Effect of Rules on Market Performance: a guest post by James Case

Jim Case, the author of Competition: The Birth of a New Science , who also frequently reviews books for the SIAM Review, writes that I could have written a different book than Who Gets What and Why, and offers some thoughts on what it might cover. Here's his guest post.

The Effect of Rules on Market Performance  by Jim Case

          The early chapters of Who Gets What and Why argue, by means of examples, that the success or failure of individual markets often depends less on the details of supply and demand than on the way the markets are organized, and the rules (written or unwritten) that govern participant behavior. History offers any number of memorable examples, of which the following seem particularly instructive:
The parimutuel system of betting at racetracks was invented in 1867. The large amount of calculation involved led to the development of a specialized mechanical calculating machine known as a “totalizator,” or “tote board”. The first one was installed at a track in New Zealand in 1913. The U.S. introduction was in 1927, at Arlington Park, near Chicago. The system was immediately popular with gamblers, for allowing them to bet against other gamblers, rather than “the house,” invariably suspected of acting on inside information.
Air-Brakes on Railroads engaged in interstate commerce were mandated by federal law in 1893. Before that, no individual road could afford the expense of installing such brakes. When all were required to have them, however, freight and passenger rates could be raised sufficiently to make them affordable. Railroad profits actually increased, due to the feasibility of operating longer trains in relative safety!
The Texas Railroad Commission (TRC) was allotted the task, during the 1920s, of regulating in-state oil production on the ground that (pipelines being yet few and far between) crude was mainly transported in railroad tank cars, limited numbers of which were available. After the discovery of the East Texas Field in 1931, the supply of crude oil so far outpaced demand that the price fell to 10 cents a barrel, ironically bringing many producers of “black gold” to the verge of bankruptcy. The commission responded by imposing limits on the fraction of rated capacity well owners were permitted to produce. Initially, they were allowed as little as ten percent, or three “producing days” per month. Texas oil men grew rich only after the Texas Supreme Court ruled that the TRC was indeed within its rights to enforce such regulation by whatever means necessary.

The Securities and Exchange Commission was established in 1934 to regulate trade in stocks, bonds, and other securities. Before that time, controls on the issuing and trading of securities had been virtually nonexistent, allowing all manner of fraud and manipulation. Drastic measures were required to restore public confidence (and participation) in the stock market following the crash of 1929. The business community, ever wary of New Deal reforms, was mollified by the effective yet business-friendly chairmanships of Joseph P. Kennedy and William O. Douglas.
The Regulation of Radio Communication has been ongoing in the US since 1912. Military, emergency responder, police, and entertainment enterprises all wanted the ability to get their signals out over the airwaves to target audiences without interference. The Radio Act of 1912 authorized the establishment of a commission to designate which airwaves would be reserved for public use and which would be available to private users. In 1926, at the request of the nascent broadcasting industry, the Federal Radio Commission was established for the immediate purpose of assigning non-interfering radio frequencies to near-by broadcasters. Advertising time became markedly easier to sell when potential buyers could be assured that their messages would be audible to target audiences. It was exactly the boost the fledgling industry needed at the time, and hastened the day when governments could generate significant revenue by auctioning radio frequencies. The Communications Act of 1934 replaced the Federal Radio Commission with the Federal Communications Commission, holding dominion over telephone as well as radio (& later TV) traffic.
The New Jersey Holding Company Act of 1893: Large corporations were illegal under English common law, which formed the basis of state law in most of the United States. Wholesale mergers and acquisitions therefore remained impossible until legal obstacles were eliminated. The critical piece of legislation is generally held to be the New Jersey Holding Company Act of 1889, which reversed the common law taboo forbidding corporations to buy and hold stock in other corporations. Further restrictions were removed in 1893 and 1896. The result was the consolidation of some 5300 original manufacturing firms into just 318 large corporations between 1897 and the panic of 1903, mostly under New Jersey law. By 1920, most US industries had become oligopolies, with consequences the economics profession has been reluctant to acknowledge.

          It should be added that failure to modify the rules of conduct within specific markets can lead directly to market failure. Congress’ failure to regulate the sale and purchase of derivative securities during the 1990s, and its continued failure to impose a carbon tax, are but two of many cases in point.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Interview about market design in the economics newspaper Wirtschafts Woche (in German)

I was interviewed about market design by Hans Jakob Ginsburg for Wirtschafts Woche
"Märkte gestalten heißt nicht Märkte abschaffen"

Discussion of Who Gets What and Why in Japan: a book review and an article (in Japanese)

A book review and an article about my lecture at Tokyo Institute of Technology:

Matching of the economy: "Who Gets What" by Noburi Ikeda

At 10:00 on April 25, 2016

  • Add to Hatena bookmark
Who Gets What - new economics of matchmaking and market design
Alvin · E · Ross
Japan Jingji News Publishing
★★★★★
*************

With Akira Ikegami at Tokyo Institute of Technology

Saturday, April 30, 2016

April was National Donate Life Month

I received a variety of emails this past month related to National Donate Life Month, and I liked this image (from the Alliance for Paired Donation) the best:


Friday, April 29, 2016

Eric Maskin and Amartya Sen channel Condorcet on American and Indian politics, in the NY Times

How Majority Rule Might Have Stopped Donald Trump

Zurich celebrates Tuomas Sandholm: Symposium on Electronic Market Design

A symposium and more in honor of Tuomas Sandholm:


Location

The symposium will take place at the Department of Education of the University of Zurich (building KAB), at Kantonsschulstrasse 3, 8001 Zurich in room G-01 (interactive map).
A map is available below.

Talks

TimeSpeakerTitle
14:00 - 15:00Prof. Tuomas Sandholm
Carnegie Mellon University, USA
Keynote: Journey and new results in combinatorial auctions, automated mechanism design for revenue maximization, and kidney exchanges
15:00 - 15:45Prof. Martin Bichler
TU Munich, Germany
All models are wrong, but some are useful: About spectrum auction design and challenges in market design
15:45 - 16:15Coffee Break
16:15 - 17:00Prof. Sven Seuken
University of Zurich, Switzerland
Designing better combinatorial auctions: Algorithms, incentives, and bidding languages
17:00 - 17:45Prof. Axel Ockenfels
University of Cologne, Germany
Engineering trust on eBay