Saturday, March 31, 2012

Sports agents and the NCAA

Joe Nocera in the NY Times talks about yet another way that professional and college hockey interact differently than do other sports: The Hockey Exemption. Professional agents, it appears, are transparently involved.

"By their mid-teens, good hockey players have the option of joining a Canadian junior league. Once they become eligible for the pro draft at age 19, they have to decide whether to sign with the team that drafts them or go to college. To help guide these decisions, agents often talk to the professional teams that draft their players; they also talk to college coaches."
In a previous post, I wrote about  Hockey: the NHL draft is different

Friday, March 30, 2012

30 Rock "Kidney Now" song

Live kidney donation, set to music on the small screen, from 30 Rock:

Here's the song: 

and here's a bit of the drama...

 HT: Mike Wheeler

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Competition among kidney exchanges

I'll be spending today and tomorrow at a "consensus conference" to assess just how much consensus there may be among the different networks presently enabling kidney exchange. Here's a NY Times article on the conference...

Lack of Unified System Hampers Kidney Transplant Efforts

"Many of the most prominent names in the field of kidney transplantation agree that the way to maximize the number of transplants through paired exchanges is to create a single, nationwide registry. That, they note, would vastly expand the pool of potential matches among transplant candidates who have willing but incompatible donors.
"And yet, more than a decade after the first organ swap in the United States, the transplant world remains disjointed, with competing private registries operating with little government oversight or regulation. The federal government started a paired exchange pilot project in late 2010, but it lags far behind nonprofits like the National Kidney Registry in making successful matches."
"In late March, a consortium of medical societies plans to hold a “consensus conference” near Washington to begin the search for common principles, and perhaps a common structure.
“Organs should be seen as a national resource,” said the meeting’s organizer, Dr. Sandy Feng, a transplant surgeon at the University of California, San Francisco, medical center. “And so we should look for agreed-upon principles to guide practice.”

Update: post conference, some political spin run through a well meaning NY Times reporter: Experts Recommend Single Registry to Oversee Kidney Transplant Donations

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

New challenges in multi-hospital kidney exchange

Ashlagi, Itai and Alvin E. Roth, "New challenges in multi-hospital kidney exchange," American Economic Review papers and proceedings, May 2012, forthcoming.

 Abstract: The growth of kidney exchange presents new challenges for the design of kidney exchange clearinghouses. The players now include directors of transplant centers, who see sets of patient-donor pairs, and can choose to reveal only difficult to match pairs to the clearinghouse, while withholding easy to match pairs to transplant locally. This reduces the number of transplants. We discuss how the incentives for hospitals to enroll all pairs in kidney exchange can be achieved, and how the concentration of hard to match pairs increases the importance of long, non-simultaneous nondirected donor chains

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Kidney exchange in Britain

David Manlove, who wrote in 2010 about Britain's first 3-way kidney exchange, writes today about work with his former student Gregg O'Malley:

" I thought you might be interested to see a paper that my colleague Dr Gregg O’Malley and I have recently written on our experience of collaborating with NHS Blood and Transplant on their paired and altruistic kidney donation matching scheme.  The paper is available in technical report form here:, and is to appear at SEA 2012 (

As part of this research, Gregg has created two web applications for producing optimal solutions to kidney exchange problems.  The first, at, finds a solution that is optimal with respect to the precise criteria involved in the UK scheme.  The second, at, is capable of accepting alternative optimality criteria (and comparing and contrasting simultaneously the effect of using different optimality criteria).

Although the web applications were built primarily with the UK application in mind, we hope that they may be interesting and useful for those involved in similar matching schemes elsewhere.

Best regards,

Compensation for donors, organ trafficking, and the Declaration of Istanbul

The American Journal of Transplantation publishes an article suggesting that organ trafficking can only be effectively ended by ending the shortage of organs, which will involve careful trials of incentives for donors.  It also publishes an editorial disagreeing with this proposal, and saying that enforcement of laws against trafficking depend on a ban on compensation to donors.

The March 2012 issue of
American Journal
of Transplantation

F. Ambagtsheer and W. Weimar
This personal viewpoint expresses the opinion of the authors on how prohibition of organ trade can be improved. See editorial by Glazier and Delmonico on page 515.

A. K. Glazier and F. L. Delmonico
The authors provide a critical response to the viewpoint by Ambagtsheer and Weimar (page 571) regarding the Declaration of Istanbul and its stance toward transplant commercialism, organ trafficking and donation.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Uriel G. Rothblum, 1947-2012

Uri Rothblum in his office at the Technion in 2003
My old friend Uri Rothblum passed away today, after a heart attack. We met when we entered graduate school in 1971. He was a man of many parts: a good friend, a devoted husband, a proud dad of three grown sons, and an important and dedicated and tireless scholar.

Update: there's a website at the Technion where friends can post comments in memoriam.

Joel Klein on school choice

Joel Klein, who was Chancellor of NYC schools when school choice was introduced in New York City high schools, writes in the Daily News: Harness the power of school choice: Competition works in education, too

Of course, details matter: see yesterday's post on an effort that didn't quite work out as planned, in San Francisco. Yesterday's post also has links to some school choice efforts that seem quite promising, however.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

School choice in San Francisco, reports on first year

I've written before about school choice in San Francisco, and about how Muriel Niederle and Clayton Featherstone led the effort by a group of our colleagues to design a strategy-proof choice algorithm (explained here at a Board meeting in 2010), based on transfer cycles ("top trading cycles" to game theorists...). The school board adopted the plan, but then the staff of the school district decided to implement it themselves, without making the details public. Fast forward to 2012, when the first children have been assigned by the new plan.

Rachel Norton's blog has a post about it here: They're out! School Assignment Letter 2012, and an earlier one here, with a link to a March 5, 2012 SFUSD report on Student Assignment. As in the previous SFUSD reports, this does not describe the choice algorithm, it only describes the "tie breakers" that are used whenever the algorithm would otherwise try to assign more students to a school than it has room for.

This outraged Stan Goldberg (who reports about SF schools as "Senior Dad"), and he posted a video about the lack of transparency called Assignment System Fraud?

He must be an influential guy, because this prompted SFUSD to post some new information, including this "fact sheet" dated March 23, called How does the student assignment computer program work?  It still doesn't come close to explaining the actual algorithm they use, but it does include a diagram of "transfer cycles."

Which raises a question. If they in fact implemented the plan we proposed and the Board adopted, you would think they would want to make this clear. The benefits of a strategy-proof assignment procedure can only be realized if parents know that they can safely list their true preferences.

On the other hand, if the algorithm isn't correctly implemented, or if some other assignment algorithm is implemented (whether or not it includes some use of transfer cycles) then it would most likely not be strategy-proof, that is, it might not be safe for parents to reveal their true preferences, and it might be in the interest of some to "game the system" in some way. That might account for a desire to keep the algorithm secret. (So might a desire to avoid revealing any inadvertent mistakes in implementation...)

I should say that SFUSD's brief description of their algorithm doesn't look to me like it describes one that is strategy-proof...:(On the contrary, it looks like it might be patched together from something like Boston's old immediate acceptance algorithm followed by some trading...but then again, it isn't a complete enough description to make me confident that it is a description of whatever they are in fact doing...)

Anyway, one point of this post is to say that, unlike the case of the systems in New York and Boston and the work that IIPSC is doing around the country, my colleagues and I don't know what algorithm SFUSD is using, even though we know what we proposed and the Board adopted. So...this post is a bit like the ads that sometimes appeared in the financial sections of newspapers when I was young, which, following a divorce, would announce that Mr John Doe was henceforth no longer responsible for any debts incurred by the former Mrs John Doe...

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Greyhound racing: a repugnant transaction with shifting coalitions

Lots of animal lovers find dog races a repugnant transaction, and it has faced ballot measures and bans.
As you would expect, firms that ran dog races opposed such bans. But that is changing, as dog races become less profitable. However, what keeps them in business is that laws were passed allowing dog racing venues to offer other kinds of gambling, and these are profitable. But, as the NY Times recently reported, to keep the licences for the other, profitable kinds of gambling, "even though the races are losing millions of dollars each year, the owners are required to keep the greyhounds running six days a week."

Read the full story (and weep) here: Greyhound Races Face Extinction at the Hands of Casinos They Fostered

Friday, March 23, 2012

Bid for a liquor store in Washington State, or for all of them

The State of Washington is auctioning off all 167 state owned liquor stores, in an auction running through March and April. It is what used to be called an "entirety auction," a simple kind of combinatorial or package bidding auction that allows both bids on individual stores, and bids on the package of all 167.

Here's the auction page of the Washington State Liquor Control Board, here's the online auction site itself, and here's an information page.

"Bids may be placed on one or multiple stores. There will also be an option for a bidder to make a single offer on the entire store network. This would secure the exclusive rights associated with all 167 state store locations. This simultaneous auction approach accomplishes multiple objectives. It lends itself to small entrepreneurs as well as larger entities that may have interest in this unique business opportunity. Additionally, it optimizes the opportunity to obtain maximum reasonable value for the assets being sold. Finally, the simultaneous approach allows for this to be completed within the tight timelines that were required by law."

Bid responsibly.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

School Choice as a national goal

Both the NY Times and the Wall Street Journal report on a report from the Council on Foreign Relations that emphasize the importance of school choice.

The NY Times: Panel Says Schools’ Failings Could Threaten Economy and National Security

"The panel made three main recommendations:
¶ Common Core standards should be adopted and expanded to include science, technology and foreign languages.
¶ Students, especially those in poor schools, should have more choices in where they go to school.
¶ Governors, working with the federal government, should develop a national security readiness audit, to judge whether schools are meeting targets."

The WSJ: School Reform's Establishment Turn: The Council on Foreign Relations endorses choice and competition.

"But the real story is how much progress the reform movement has made when pillars of the establishment are willing to endorse a choice movement that would have been too controversial even a few years ago."

From the vantage point of the work we're doing with school districts around the country at the Institute for Innovation in Public School Choice (IIPSC), I would have to say that the cutting edge is combining charter and regular district-administered schools in one system, as in Denver (and underway in Chicago)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Dual career job search in Southern California

Some institutions are developing to reflect the increased number of two-career couples on the job market. Here's one source of articles, links to university career services with connections to couples, and some job announcements:
HERC: Higher Education Recruitment Consortium

"HERC member institutions understand that employment decisions often involve two careers.
 Get help with your dual career search by registering for job alerts and linking your profile with your spouse/partner."

HT: Alan Benson

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Kidney exchange, satirical Onion video and an HBS case study

Recently my HBS colleagues taught a case study on kidney exchange called Kidney Matchmakers (featuring Mike Rees at the Alliance for Paired Donation).

They debated whether to also show this satirical video from The Onion (but good taste prevailed and they decided not to): Anonymous Philanthropist Donates 200 Human Kidneys To Hospital

Monday, March 19, 2012

Economics job market scramble opens March 21, 2012

Here's the announcement:

Economics Job Market "Scramble" for new Ph.D.s

The 2012 Job Economics Job Market Scramble registration will open on March 21, 2012.
March 21-28: Registration Period.
March 30-April 10: Scramble Website will open for viewing by registered participants only.
April 11: Scramble Viewing will close.
See the Scramble Guide for more detailed information.
Verified registrants received an email on April 1st with instructions for viewing the prospective Employer and Candidate lists.

Brief Description:

Occasionally prospective employers of new Ph.D. economists exhaust their candidates before hiring someone during the winter/spring "job market" period. Similarly, new economics Ph.D.s seeking a job sometimes find that all of the prospective employers with whom they have interviewed have hired someone else before they have secured an appointment.
To address these problems, the AEA has established a "Job Market Scramble" web site to facilitate communication between employers and job seekers in late spring. In March, employers that continue to have an open position previously listed in Job Openings for Economists (JOE) may post a short notice of its availability (with a link to the JOE listing). Similarly, new or recent economics Ph.D. job seekers still looking for a position may post a short announcement of their continued availability, with a link to their application materials (C.V., papers, references). The web site will open for viewing to those who have listed a position or availability soon after listings close. There is no charge for the "Job Market Scramble."
See the Scramble Guide for more detailed information. 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The market for hitmen

If two men who have just met discuss a contract killing in a bar, there's an excellent chance that at least one of them is employed in some branch of law enforcement. So you would think that a website offering to match buyers and sellers in this market wouldn't have a lot of customers, but it appears from some recent court cases that you are overestimating the sophistication of internet shoppers. Here's a recent story from the LA Times. Apparently the proprietor of the site wasn't content to act as a matchmaker, he tried to play both sides of the market by selling hits and then contacting the intended victims and offering to be bought off. But it appears that the demand side was real, and some of them are serving time too...

Website matches targets and hit man
"The case began with a website called The designer thought it was a joke, but the FBI and Irish police soon learned that Essam Ahmed Eid, a Las Vegas poker dealer, was in business."

In another twist, the domain name has been acquired by someone who apparently hopes to make a movie about the case, and from the look of it thinks it might be a comedy:.

HT: Scott Cunningham, who keeps an economist's eye on the dark side

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Arguments in the press against deceased organ donation

Dick Teresi, the author of  a new book called The Undead, has been in the recent press. His argument is related to how we determine if a patient is dead enough to be a deceased organ donor,while still having organs that are alive enough to be donated.

In the WSJ: What You Lose When You Sign That Donor Card: Giving away your organs sounds noble, but have doctors blurred the line between life and death?

And in McCleans: Dick Teresi: On the debate over when life really ends, and the possibility cadavers can feel pain 

Even if you think this author is alarmist, if we want to make transplantation more available, we have to understand and address the barriers--informational, psychological, esthetic--to becoming a donor.  That being said, the comments I've heard on this subject from people at organ procurement organizations suggests that Teresi is indeed alarmist, and that people declared brain dead are adequately tested to make sure they are very dead indeed.

Here are my previous posts on deceased donation.

Update: today's WSJ published a letter in reply, which I reproduce in full below (Thanks for the pointer to Zeeshan Butt at Northwestern):

Dick Teresi's "What You Lose When You Sign That Donor Card" (Review, March 10) grossly misinforms the public about both the medical determination of brain death and the organ donation process in the U.S.
First, there has never been a documented case of patient recovery after a properly performed determination of death by neurological criteria. Ever.
Second, the diagnosis of brain death requires extensive neurological examination, irrespective of a patient's organ donor status or the family's support for donation. Electroencephalography is generally no longer used because it's outmoded, not because physicians have something to hide. When donation is an option, the organ recovery agency must verify that all clinical testing has been done and all legal documentation is in the patient's chart.
Organ donation saves lives. Eighteen Americans will die today waiting for a life-saving organ. We hope that Mr. Teresi's misinformed comments do not add to that number.
Tia Powell, M.D.
Director, Montefiore-Einstein Center for Bioethics
Bronx, N.Y
James Zisfein, M.D.
Chief, Division of Neurology
Lincoln Medical Center
Bronx, N.Y.
Helen Irving
President and CEO
New York Organ Donor Network

Friday, March 16, 2012

SF parking meters in the NY Times: A Meter So Expensive, It Creates Parking Spots.

Previous posts on congestion pricing and parking generally.

Doubt on college admissions reform in Britain

In an earlier post I wrote about plans for change in Britain's college admissions system.
Apparently that is far from a sure thing: Admissions Debate in Britain

"Several universities have threatened to withdraw from Britain's centralized admissions system if "post-qualifications applications" are introduced, casting doubt on the future of the proposed reforms.

"The threat to “opt out” of the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service was made by members of the 1994 Group, which represents 19 smaller research-intensive institutions, in its response to plans for students to apply to higher education after receiving their A-level results. Other groups have also voiced their opposition to the radical shake-up of admissions put forward for consultation by UCAS in October, placing the overall project in jeopardy.
"Under the proposals – earmarked for introduction in 2016 – students would sit their A-level exams six weeks or a month earlier and receive their results in July rather than August. They would then apply to just two universities and start the academic term in early October.

Without support from universities, which fund UCAS through subscriptions, the plans are “highly unlikely to be picked up,” said Matthew Andrews, chair of the Admissions Practitioners’ Group of the Academic Registrars Council." 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Assisted suicide in the U.S.

Assisted suicide is a prototypically repugnant transaction, in the sense that there are people who want to engage in it, and others who object. Here's an article from yesterday's WSJ, about a doctor who benefited from his own efforts to legalize assisted suicide in Oregon: Right-to-Die Advocate Ends His Life

"Peter Goodwin, a family physician who wrote and campaigned for Oregon's right-to-die law in the 1990s, died Sunday after taking a cocktail of lethal drugs prescribed by his doctor, as allowed under the legislation he championed.

"Dr. Goodwin, 83 years old, had been diagnosed with a degenerative brain disorder similar to Parkinson's disease and had been given less than six months to live.

"The Oregon law was the first in the nation to authorize patients to end their lives with the assistance of physicians. It doesn't allow for doctors to administer euthanasia by injection, though it authorizes them to prescribe lethal drugs that the patient can choose to take.

 "The law has withstood legal challenges including a case brought by the Bush administration. In 2006, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Oregon, saying that the federal government couldn't forbid doctors from prescribing drugs to help a patient die.
"Oregon voters approved the Death With Dignity Act at the polls in 1994, and voted down legislation that would have repealed it in 1997. A total of 597 people have died under its provisions, including 71 in 2011, according to Oregon state statistics.
"The act has had an impact beyond Oregon, serving as a model for a Washington State law that took effect in 2009. Massachusetts is scheduled to vote on a similar law in November, while Montana allows physician-assisted suicide as a result of a court case.

"John Kelly, director of Second Thoughts, a Massachusetts-based organization of disability activists who oppose the assisted-suicide ballot petition, said assisted suicide brings up big problems. "Dr. Goodwin "created a monster," Mr. Kelly said. "Assisted suicide is a deadly mix with the profit-driven health-care system. There are so many problems with assisted suicide. These bills sound good in some kind of a perfect-knowledge fantasy universe, but when we get down to real life they become a disaster."
"The Death With Dignity Act had a wide effect on end-of-life decisions, said Barbara Coombs Lee, executive director of Compassion & Choices, a national right-to-die organization that is a successor to the Hemlock Society. "Palliative care and hospice care got a big boost in Oregon," Ms. Lee said. "It levels the playing field between patients and physicians who are invested in giving more treatment."

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Brides "for sale:" marriage patterns in East Asia

Soohyung Lee and Daiji Kawaguchi have a paper on marriage and matching that looks at who marries whom in East Asia.  As I understand it, they argue that there's a powerful norm there for men to "marry down," (related to having "traditional" expectations of marriage) with the result that highly educated women and poorly educated men have difficulty finding suitable local spouses, and that the lower educated men marry foreign brides from poorer countries.

Brides for Sale: Cross-Border Marriages and Female Immigration

Abstract: Every year, a large number of women migrate as brides from developing countries to developed countries in East Asia. This phenomenon virtually did not exist in the early 1990s, but foreign brides currently comprise 4 to 35 percent of newlyweds in these developed Asian countries. This paper argues that two factors account for this rapid increase in “bride importation”: the rapid growth of women's educational attainment and a cultural norm that leads to low net surplus of marriage for educated women. We provide empirical evidence supporting our theoretical model and its implications, using datasets from Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore.

And here's a NY Times story from the point of view of Vietnamese brides married to Korean men: For Some in Vietnam, Prosperity Is a South Korean Son-in-Law

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Same sex marriage: the debate in Britain

Old repugnancies die hard...
Gay marriage is like slavery, Catholic leader says 

 "Britain’s most senior Catholic, Cardinal Keith O'Brien, has condemned gay marriage as an “aberration”, likening it to slavery and abortion."

"Cardinal Keith O'Brien said countries which legalise gay marriage are “shaming themselves” by going against the “natural law,” and should not consider their actions “progress”. :

"He claimed same sex unions were the “thin end of the wedge” and would lead to the “further degeneration of society into immorality.”

And, in a related story

The Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales is intensifying its campaign against the government's plan to legalise same-sex marriage.
"In a letter being read in 2,500 parish churches, the Church's two most senior archbishops say the change would reduce the significance of marriage.

 "The letter says Roman Catholics have a duty to make sure it does not happen.

Monday, March 12, 2012

John Campbell on Mortgage Market Design

John Campbell writes about Mortgage Market Design

"Although the US has roughly average levels of homeownership (67%) and mortgage debt
(72% of GDP), it is unusual in two other respects. Figure 3 plots the average number of
years that a mortgage carries a fixed rate. The lowest values (around 1 year) are in southern European countries such as Portugal, Spain, and Italy, where adjustable-rate mortgages predominate. The UK and Ireland similarly rely heavily on adjustable-rate mortgages.The average fixed-rate period is 5 years in Canada, 7-10 years in Belgium, France, and Germany, almost 20 years in Denmark, and 27 years in the US reflecting a roughly 90% market share for 30-year nominal fixed-rate mortgages. These instruments, which are taken for granted in the US, are anomalous within the global mortgage system.

"Figure 4 plots an index of government participation in housing finance, constructed by
the IMF (2011), against the homeownership rate. The IMF index combines information on subsidies to home purchases, government funding or guarantees for mortgage loans, preferential tax treatment for mortgage interest or capital gains on housing, and the existence of a dominant state-owned mortgage lender. The figure shows that US housing policy is highly interventionist, more so than any other country illustrated except Singapore. The high value of the government participation index for the US results from subsidies to low and middle income homebuyers, subsidized mortgage guarantees by the government sponsored entities (GSEs), and favorable tax treatment of mortgage borrowing and housing capital gains. The main stated goal of much US housing policy is to increase the homeownership rate, but as previously noted the US has only average homeownership, and more generally there is only a very weak positive cross-country correlation between housing market intervention and
"I argue that there is a legitimate public interest in a stable, efficient mortgage system and call for deliberate experimentation with mortgage market design. Although our theoretical understanding of mortgage markets is still quite weak relative to the theory that underpins classic applications of market design (to auctions and matching problems, for example), financial theory and theoretically grounded empirical research will be important for this enterprise. Thus mortgage research offers financial economists an exciting opportunity to contribute to the well-being of society.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Summer school in algorithmic economics at CMU in August

The announcement is here.
Important dates
  • April 15, 2012: Application deadline
  • May 6, 2012: Notification of selection
  • August 6-10, 2012: Summer school 

Confirmed speakers:

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Market design in Trento

13th Trento Summer School
Dan Friedman, Economics Department, Santa Cruz University CA

David Parkes, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University

Guest lecturers: Tuomas Sandholm, School of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University, Peter Cramton, Economics Department, University of Maryland, Paul J. Healy, Economics Department, Ohio State University, S. N. Muthu Muthukrishnan, Computer Science Department, Rutgers University, Estelle Cantillon, ECARES, Université Libre de Bruxelles
For the last several centuries, markets have spread spontaneously and have organized an increasing share of human activity. Globalization and information technologies accelerated the process in the early 21st century and, at the same time, opened unprecedented new opportunities for deliberate design.
Market design has much to learn from success stories like Amazon and eBay, online advertising, labour markets for medical interns and residents, wireless spectrum auction design, expressive auctions for sourcing, and mobile phone banking in the developing world. Market designers can also learn from disasters such as the California energy market of May 2000 through September 2001 and the credit-default swap market freeze in September 2008.
Market design is a multi-disciplinary problem with relevant expertise coming from economic theory, computer science, and operations research. Advances are made with the right combination of theory and pragmatics, with theoretical ideals balanced against requirements for computational and informational efficiency, as well as simplicity and robustness.
The 2012 Trento Summer School faculty will bring together experts from many fields:
  • artificial intelligence and multi-agent systems
  • experimental economics
  • mechanism design theory
  • prediction markets
  • theoretical computer science

They will provide an integrated series of lectures on topics such as
  • two-sided platforms
  • matching markets
  • double auction markets
  • virtual economies
  • combinatorial auctions

Students participating in this Summer School will gain an up-to-date overview of the relevant theory, current evidence on what sorts of market formats work well under various conditions, and pragmatic issues that arise when theoretical paradigms meet real-world challenges.
In addition to overview lectures in the mornings, the school will feature intensive seminar-style discussions in the afternoons of participants’ research.
The Trento Summer Schools are intended for advanced graduate students and post-doctoral scholars in economics, computer science and operations research. People interested in participating in the Summer School are encouraged to apply by submitting a curriculum vitae, a two-page essay describing their interest in Market Design, a course transcript from their PhD program, including advanced examinations passed, two letters of recommendation, and statements about their current or projected research, along with relevant research papers, if any.
Applications are due by Saturday, 17 march 2012. Persons interested in participating in the Summer School should follow the application procedure.
Admissions decisions will be announced by 10 April 2012. All applicants will be informed by e-mail about the results.
The sessions will be held at Hotel Villa Madruzzo, Trento, Italy. All participants are required to stay for the entire duration of the event. Food and accommodation will be covered by the School (except for meals during the weekend) and participants will have to cover travel expenses.
Please direct logistical questions to the Summer School secretary (
This is the 13th of a series of intensive courses to be offered by the Cognitive and Experimental Economics Laboratory (CEEL) with the financial support of John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation, an Athens-based Foundation supporting public benefit activities in Greece and abroad:
Previous courses were offered in Computable Economics (2000, Director K. Vela Velupillai), Experimental Economics (2001, Director Daniel Friedman), Adaptive Economic Processes (2002, Director Peter Howitt), Behavioral Economics (2003, Directors Daniel Friedman and David Laibson), Institutional Economics (2004, Director Richard N. Langlois), Evolutionary Economic Dynamics (2005,Directors Ken Binmore and Larry Samuelson), Agent-Based Computational Economics (2006, Directors Leigh Tesfatsion and Robert Axtell), Agent-Based Finance (2007, Directors Cars Hommes and Thomas Lux), Financial Instability and Crises (2008, Directors Domenico Delli Gatti and Mauro Gallegati), Networks and Innovation (2009, Directors John Padgett, Lee Fleming and Massimo Riccaboni), Macroeconomics and Financial Crises (2010, Directors Peter Howitt, Daniel Heymann and Axel Leijonhufvud) and Evolution of Social Preferences (2011, Directors Dan Friedman and Luigi Mittone)

Program Directors: Axel Leijonhufvud, UCLA and University of Trento and Enrico Zaninotto, University of Trento

Co-Directors of the School:
Dan Friedman, Economics Department, Santa Cruz University CA
David Parkes, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University
Guest Lecturers:
Tuomas Sandholm, School of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University,
Peter Cramton, Economics Department, University of Maryland,
Paul J. Healy, Economics Department, Ohio State University,
S. N. Muthu Muthukrishnan, Computer Science Department, Rutgers University,
Estelle Cantillon, ECARES, Université Libre de Bruxelles

Laboratory Director: Luigi Mittone, University of Trento

Lab Technical Assistant: Marco Tecilla, University of Trento
Summer School Secretary:
The course is offered by the Cognitive and Experimental Economics Laboratory CEEL of the University of Trento with the financial support of John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation, an Athens-based Foundation supporting public benefit activities in Greece and abroad:

Friday, March 9, 2012

More on Rosemarie Nagel's famous experiment in game theory

In an earlier post, I wrote about Nagel's guessing/beauty contest game: a famous experiment in game theory.  Now Christoph Büren, Björn Frank and Rosemarie Nagel have written a brief note called A Historical Note on the Beauty Contest.

And here's the comic version of the game (from another earlier post which highlighted the connection to unraveling):

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The path to becoming a live kidney donor

Here's the story of an nondirected live kidney donor at the Cleveland Clinic: Sagamore Hills man finds that donating a kidney is no simple thing

From decision to donation took about six months, with a variety of physical and psychological screens to pass through.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A different shade of red

cardinal: Pantone 201

rgb(164, 16, 52) crimson

Who eats what

The Economist reports on The moral and culinary merits of exotic flesh

"Andrew Thornton, manager of the Budgens supermarket in the north London suburb of Crouch End, says sales of squirrel meat have soared since he started selling it in 2010.

"The bushy-tailed tree-dwellers are just one category in a burgeoning market. Osgrow, a British-based firm, exports bison, crocodile (“ideal for barbecues”) and kudu meat (“juicy and low-fat”) to customers in countries where controls on wild meat are tighter. One such market is Germany, where hygiene laws forbid the eating of “cat and doglike flesh”. The German environment ministry confirms that this includes squirrel; the country’s media mock English rat-eaters. Australia sent quantities of kangaroo meat to Russia until an import ban in 2009, ostensibly on hygiene grounds (it is now being reconsidered).
"No legal obstacle exists to eating the king of beasts, but roars of opposition prevented a restaurant in Tucson, Arizona, from selling lion flesh in tacos."

HT: NicolaLacetera

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

A language is a marketplace: Defending local languages versus teaching in English

A headline in Haaretz takes a strident tone on a sensitive issue, but the story presents both sides of a complicated argument, that revolves around the fact that not only are universities marketplaces, but so are languages: Israel's Academy of the Hebrew Language declares war – on English

"Tali Ben Yehuda, the academy's director-general, said "demands that students study in English represent the gravest expression of the trend" of minimizing Hebrew's role in academia. Demands that students speak or study in English constitute a phenomenon "that is expanding considerably."

"Unless steps are taken, she warned, "academic departments will instruct solely in English, and this will spread to the high schools, because a conscientious parent will not send his or her child to a high school that doesn't prepare the youngster for university study.
"Ben-Gurion University of the Negev's chemistry department has sent a letter in English to students saying that research papers written in Hebrew will no longer be accepted. It said advanced research seminars would be conducted in English. This is because "the language of science is English."
Yehuda Band, the head of the university's chemistry department, said last night that this English-use requirement did not apply to undergraduates. He said that "if someone tries to record research results in Hebrew, that consigns his or her work to oblivion - nobody will read the research summary. Every person who deals in science today in Israel reads English."
"According to Band, another argument in favor of English is Ben-Gurion University's desire to recruit foreign students. The moment there's a student in a class who doesn't speak Hebrew, the lesson has to be conducted in English.
"Of course, these circumstances make things harder for people whose native tongue is Hebrew, and yet the use of English is something that any scientist has to master to advance in his or her work," Band said. "If a researcher doesn't know English, he's finished. If he doesn't know how to write in English, he won't be able to publish on his own and will depend on the largesse of others."

Monday, March 5, 2012

Podcast on kidney exchange, and ethical issues in organ transplantation

The March 2012 issue of the AMA journal Virtual Mentor is a special issue on Organ Transplantation.

It contains a two part podcast of an interview with me about kidney exchange:

Organ Transplantation

Ethics Poll

Should there be a commercial market in organs?
Yes. Individuals sell sperm and ova, and corporate sales of human tissue, tendons, bones, and heart valves reap enormous profits. Organs should be no different.
No. People with health but not wealth would be coerced by dire short-term needs to put their health at risk by selling organs.
Not for dollars, but living donors should be promised a free organ transplant if they ever need one.
I don't know.
Which of the following do you think should be the most important criterion for determining who will receive an organ?
Sickest person first.
Person who has been on the organ recipient wait list the longest.
Person with the best prognosis.
Youngest person.
Person with the best support (family, social, economic) for meeting the demands of posttransplant life.
Equal chance for all to "win" the organ, i.e., a lottery.
None of the above.
Have you formally declared (e.g., on driver's licence or advance directive) that you wish to donate your organs after death?


The Frontiers of Organ Transplantation: “Oh, The Places We’ll Go”
Alon B. Neidich
Full Text | PDF
Virtual Mentor. 2012; 14:184-185.


Ethics Cases

Assessing the Motives of Living, Non-Related Donors
Commentary by Katrina A. Bramstedt, and Francis L. Delmonico
Full Text | PDF
Virtual Mentor. 2012; 14:186-189.
Should a Nonadherent Adolescent Receive a Second Kidney?
Commentary by John D. Lantos and Bradley A. Warady
Full Text | PDF
Virtual Mentor. 2012; 14:190-193.
Family Physicians’ Role in Discussing Organ Donation with Patients and the Public
Commentary by Keren Ladin and Douglas W. Hanto
Full Text | PDF
Virtual Mentor. 2012; 14:194-200.

Medical Education

Online Ethics-Education Modules and Ethics Forums of the American Society of Transplant Surgeons
John M. Ham
Full Text | PDF
Virtual Mentor. 2012; 14:201-203.

The Code Says

AMA Code of Medical Ethics’ Opinions on Organ Transplantation
Full Text | PDF
Virtual Mentor. 2012; 14:204-214.

Journal Discussion

Living-Donor Grafts for Patients with Hepatocellular Carcinoma
Mohamed Elhassan Akoad
Full Text | PDF
Virtual Mentor. 2012; 14:215-220.

State of the Art and Science

Severe Brain Injury and Organ Solicitation: A Call for Temperance
Joseph J. Fins
Full Text | PDF
Virtual Mentor. 2012; 14:221-226.
Sham Surgery
Richard J. Rohrer
Full Text | PDF
Virtual Mentor. 2012; 14:227-231.


Health Law

Reproductive Tissue Transplants Defy Legal and Ethical Categorization
Valarie Blake and Kavita Shah
Full Text | PDF
Virtual Mentor. 2012; 14:232-236.

Policy Forum

Contemporary Debates over the Acceptability of Kidneys for Donation
Benjamin Hippen
Full Text | PDF
Virtual Mentor. 2012; 14:237-244.
Rationing Livers: The Persistence of Geographic Inequity in Organ Allocation
Bruce C. Vladeck, Sander Florman, and Jonathan Cooper
Full Text | PDF
Virtual Mentor. 2012; 14:245-249.
Implications of the Affordable Care Act for Kidney Transplantation
Christine S. Rizk and Sanjiv N. Singh
Full Text | PDF
Virtual Mentor. 2012; 14:250-255.

Medicine and Society

The Veneer of Altruism
Michele Goodwin
Full Text | PDF
Virtual Mentor. 2012; 14:256-263.


History of Medicine

The Ethics of Organ Transplantation: A Brief History
Albert R. Jonsen
Full Text | PDF
Virtual Mentor. 2012; 14:264-268.

Medical Narrative

Liver Transplantation: The Illusion of Choice
Carol Panetta Zazula
Full Text | PDF
Virtual Mentor. 2012; 14:269-271.



The Limits of Altruism: Selecting Living Donors
Richard B. Freeman Jr.
Full Text | PDF
Virtual Mentor. 2012; 14:272-277.


Suggested Readings and Resources
Virtual Mentor. 2012; 14:278-291.
About the Contributors
Full Text | PDF
Virtual Mentor. 2012; 14:292-295.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Organ donation in Britain

The BBC reports on a new report by the British Medical Association: BMA calls for fresh debate on rate of organ donation. It focuses on some of the same issues that have been discussed in the U.S. and elsewhere.

You can find the report here: Building on Progress: Where next for organ donation policy in the UK? (direct link to pdf here).

"This report documents the changes that have taken place since the Organ Donation Taskforce published its report in January 2008. It records the significant improvements that have been made to the infrastructure and the projected 34% increase in donation rates over the four years to April 2012. The report notes, however, that even if the Taskforce’s target of a 50% increase in donation rates by 2013 is achieved, people will still be dying unnecessarily while waiting for an organ.

 "We believe that, as a society, we now need to decide whether we should be satisfied that we have done all we can or whether we should seek to build on what has already been achieved by shifting out attention to additional ways of increasing the number of organ donors.

 "The report examines a range of options that have been suggested for increasing the number of donors including a system of mandated choice, reciprocity, a regulated market or paying the funeral expenses of those who sign up to the Organ Donor Register and subsequently donate organs. The report also explains why we remain convinced that an opt-out system with safeguards is the best option for the UK."

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Friday, March 2, 2012

Fifth Barcelona LeeX Experimental Economics Summer School in Macroeconomics

Applications are now being accepted for the

Fifth Barcelona LeeX Experimental Economics Summer School in Macroeconomics, BLESS-M-2012,

to be held: June 11-15 2012 at Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona, Spain.

The deadline for applications is 1 April 2012.

The aim of the summer school is to introduce macroeconomists to experimental methods and to further promote the use of experiments in the evaluation of macroeconomic models. While macroeconomic theories have traditionally been tested using non-experimental “field” data, many modern, micro-founded macroeconomic models can also be tested in the laboratory and researchers have begun to pursue such experimental tests. Graduate students specializing in macroeconomics or experimental economics, as well as junior faculty members and other macroeconomic researchers who have an interest in experimental or behavioral approaches are encouraged to apply.

During the intensive 5-day summer school students will be taught experimental methods and exposed to a number of macroeconomic applications that have been tested experimentally. Students will be asked to participate in experiments and to develop their own experimental macroeconomic projects. Faculty will assist with and critique these projects.  Past summer schools have resulted in the production of a number of high quality collaborative experimental projects.

For a detailed outline of the program, lectures and application procedures, please visit the summer school website at:

As last year the summer school will be followed by the 3rd Leex International Conference on Theoretical and Experimental Macroeconomics, June 18-19, 2012. Registered summer school students will be invited to attend that workshop as well. Details on this conference are available at:

The summer school instructors are:

Guest lecturers
Charles Noussair, Tilburg University
Shyam Sunder, Yale University

Lecturers and Organizers
John Duffy, University of Pittsburgh
Frank Heinemann, Technische Universität Berlin Rosemarie Nagel, ICREA, Universitat Pompeu Fabra 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Should unpaid internships be repugnant? (Many are already illegal...)

The NY Times hosts a debate: most of the debaters think the answer is "yes": Do Unpaid Internships Exploit College Students?

Alex Peysakhovich writes
"I talked to a friend of mine who is in the music recording business about this. He started work in a studio as an unpaid intern (for about 6 months) then got hired onto the staff. For reference: they usually have about 3-4 interns and 1-2 staff in the studio during business hours, so most of their labor hours come in from free sources (but it counts as training since interns do most of the tech work).

"He gave me the "well, that's how the business works... if they want to enter the business they need to put in the time." He didn't really buy the "lots of unpaid internships are exploitative" arguments making the, very economist point, that they're giving a chance to let the interns signal their actual interest and ability.

"How much of this is selection (he thought it was ok so he did it) vs how much is "it's hard to make a man understand something when his paycheck depends on him not understanding it," I'm not sure."