Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Same sex marriage now legal in Switzerland, by popular referendum

 The BBC has the story (it happened last month, but I wasn't paying attention):

Switzerland same-sex marriage: Two-thirds of voters back yes

"Some 64% supported the measure, making it one of the last countries in western Europe to legalise same-sex marriage.


"In the build up to the vote, church groups and conservative political parties opposed the idea, saying it would undermine the traditional family.

"Switzerland has allowed same-sex couples to register partnerships since 2007, but some rights are restricted.

"The measure will make it possible for same-sex couples to adopt unrelated children and for married lesbian couples to have children through sperm donation.

"It makes Switzerland the 30th country in the world to adopt same-sex marriage.


"Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter said the first same-sex marriages would take place in July next year.

"Whoever loves each other and wants to get married will be able to do so, regardless of whether it is two men, two women, or a man and a woman," she said.


"Over the last 20 years, most countries in western Europe have recognised same-sex marriage. However, in Switzerland many big decisions go to a nationwide ballot, and this can slow down major changes to social legislation.

"The new law, which had the backing of the Swiss government and all major political parties except the People's Party, was passed by parliament in December."

Monday, October 25, 2021

Crime and punishment (or not): Shoplifting in San Francisco

 In a criminal justice system in which incarceration sometimes seems to be the treatment of choice, it makes some sense to pay less attention to small crimes. But incentives matter, and so do small crimes (particularly small crimes that can be aggregated by organized gangs into profitable businesses...).

The WSJ has the story:

San Francisco Has Become a Shoplifter’s Paradise. Walgreens has closed 22 stores in the city, where thefts under $950 are effectively decriminalized. By Jason L. Riley

"The recent closings bring to 22 the number of stores that Walgreens has shut in the city since 2016. “Theft in Walgreens’ San Francisco stores is four times the average for stores elsewhere in the country, and the chain spends 35 times more on security guards in the city than elsewhere,” reported the San Francisco Chronicle.


"Much of this lawlessness can be linked to Proposition 47, a California ballot initiative passed in 2014, under which theft of less than $950 in goods is treated as a nonviolent misdemeanor and rarely prosecuted. Out of concern for safety and potential lawsuits, stores tell employees and security guards not to intervene when they witness a crime. Most suspects, if they are pursued at all by police, are soon released. Californians effectively decriminalized shoplifting. Not surprisingly, they have more of it."

Sunday, October 24, 2021

The Economist celebrates Milgrom and Wilson, and economic engineering

 The Economist has weighed in on the 2021 Nobel Prize in Economics:

The Nobel prize in economics rewards advances in auction theory. For the third time since 2007, it goes to designers of market mechanisms, Oct 17th 2020

"In 1991 Alvin Roth, who in 2012 would share the Nobel prize for economics, was asked how the discipline might change over the century to come. “In the long term”, he wrote, “the real test of our success will be not merely how well we understand the general principles which govern economic interactions, but how well we can bring this knowledge to bear on practical questions of microeconomic engineering.” Sweden’s Royal Academy of Science seems to agree. On October 12th it gave this year’s Nobel prize to Paul Milgrom and Robert Wilson, both of Stanford University, for their work on auction theory and design. Their work epitomises economics as engineering.


"The pursuit of economics as a form of engineering means that Messrs Milgrom and Wilson are more enmeshed in the real world than the typical academic. Both have consulted for regulators and firms. Mr Milgrom advised Time Warner and Comcast on their participation in radio-spectrum auctions in 2006; his efforts helped save his clients more than $1bn. In 2009 he co-founded a firm, Auctionomics, that provides consulting services to those looking to operate and to bid in auctions (many of the sort designed by the prizewinners).

"It is a different sort of work from that which many aspiring scholars imagine themselves to be pursuing. But the rewards the laureates have reaped in academia and beyond certainly advertise the power wielded by economic engineers."

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Economics of organ transplants celebrated by Stanford GSB

 The Stanford GSB website has a long article celebrating the work at Stanford studying many aspects of kidney transplantation (kidney exchange, deceased donors, compensation), focusing particularly on the work of Mohammad AkbarpourPaulo Somaini, and Stefanos Zenios at GSB, and connections to other Stanford faculty including Itai Ashlagi.

A Beautiful Application: Using Economics to Make Kidney Exchanges More Efficient and Fair.  Even modest improvements to organ exchange markets can save many lives. That’s where economists and operations experts come in. | by Dylan Walsh

Here's a line I liked:)

"The year was 2012. Akbarpour was a doctoral student taking a class with Alvin Roth, the legendary Stanford economics professor..."

Friday, October 22, 2021

Kidney failure is epidemic among agricultural workers in hot countries… so is likely to be exacerbated by global warming.

 When I visited the UAE this past summer, I learned that it has high rates of kidney failure, attributed to the very high temperatures that outdoor workers experience there. Here's a story that says that's a problem in other hot places, and therefore likely to get worse as the atmosphere heats up. It's a further reason why it makes sense to expand kidney exchange across borders, and not just among wealthy countries.

The Guardian has the story:

Global heating ‘may lead to epidemic of kidney disease’. Deadly side-effect of heat stress is threat to rising numbers of workers in hot climates, doctors warn  by Natalie Grover

"Chronic kidney disease linked to heat stress could become a major health epidemic for millions of workers around the world as global temperatures increase over the coming decades, doctors have warned.

"More research into the links between heat and CKDu – chronic kidney disease of uncertain cause – is urgently needed to assess the potential scale of the problem, they have said.

"Unlike the conventional form of chronic kidney disease (CKD), which is a progressive loss of kidney function largely seen among elderly people and those afflicted with other conditions such as diabetes and hypertension, epidemics of CKDu have already emerged primarily in hot, rural regions of countries such as El Salvador and Nicaragua, where abnormally high numbers of agricultural workers have begun dying from irreversible kidney failure.

"CKDu has also started to be recorded as affecting large numbers of people doing heavy manual labour in hot temperatures in other parts of Central America as well as North America, South America, the Middle East, Africa and India.


"Dr Ramón García Trabanino, a clinical nephrologist and medical director at El Salvador’s Centre of Hemodialysis, first noticed an unusual number of CKD patients saturating his hospital as a medical student more than two decades ago.

They were young men,” he said, “and they were dying because we didn’t have the budget or the capacity to give them dialysis treatment. We did the best we could, but they kept dying and more kept coming.”

"Since then he has started researching similar epidemics in Mexico, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama."

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Janos Kornai (1928-2021)

 Peter Biro alerts me to the passing of Janos Kornai.

Renowned Economist Kornai Dies Aged 94

and here

Economist Janos Kornai dies

He was a bridge between East and West, between command economies and market economies.  Here's his Google Scholar page: Janos Kornai.

When I met him, he was spending half his time at Harvard and half back in Hungary.  At his retirement dinner from Harvard, someone asked him something along the lines of "what's the biggest difference between Hungary and the U.S.?" He answered that it was how people answered the question "How are you?"  In Hungary, he said, people told you of their complaints, but in the U.S., everyone gave you a big smile and said "I'm fine, how are you?"  He recounted how he thought the American answer was more cheerful, and that he would try to change the equilibrium in Hungary by answering like an American, when in Hungary.  But this didn't work, he said (which is the problem with equilibria...)  When he would reply that he was fine, the response he got was along the lines of "Of course you're fine, you live in the United States!"). So he resigned himself to the fact that equilibria are hard to change...

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

NBER Market Design Working Group Meeting, Fall 2021

DATE October 21-23, 2021 (Times in EDT)

ORGANIZERS Michael Ostrovsky and Parag A. Pathak
NBER conferences are by invitation. All participants are expected to comply with the NBER's Conference Code of Conduct.

Thursday, October 21

12:00 pm
12:45 pm
1:30 pm
2:00 pm
2:45 pm
3:30 pm

Friday, October 22

12:00 pm
12:45 pm
1:30 pm
2:00 pm
2:45 pm
3:30 pm

Saturday, October 23

12:00 pm
12:45 pm
1:30 pm
2:00 pm
2:45 pm
3:30 pm