Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Boy scouts reverse their position and accept transgender boys

That was fast. After the Cub Scouts recently expelled a transgender boy, the NY Times reports Boy Scouts, Reversing Century-Old Stance, Will Allow Transgender Boys

"Reversing its stance of more than a century, the Boy Scouts of America said on Monday that the group would begin accepting members based on the gender listed on their application, paving the way for transgender boys to join the organization.
“For more than 100 years, the Boy Scouts of America, along with schools, youth sports and other youth organizations, have ultimately deferred to the information on an individual’s birth certificate to determine eligibility for our single-gender programs,” the group said in a statement on its website. “However, that approach is no longer sufficient as communities and state laws are interpreting gender identity differently, and these laws vary widely from state to state.”
The announcement, reported on Monday night by The Associated Press, reverses a policy that drew controversy late last year when a transgender boy in New Jersey was kicked out of the organization about a month after joining.
“After weeks of significant conversations at all levels of our organization, we realized that referring to birth certificates as the reference point is no longer sufficient,” Michael Surbaugh, the Scouts’ chief executive, said in a recorded statement on Monday.
The announcement came amid a national debate over transgender rights, with cities and states across the nation struggling with whether and how to regulate gender identity in the workplace, in restrooms and at schools.
In recent years, the Boy Scouts of America has expanded rights for gay people. In 2013, the group ended its ban on openly gay youths participating in its activities. Two years later, the organization ended its ban on openly gay adult leaders."

Monday, January 30, 2017

Economists as artisans, doctors, entrepreneurs...dentists, engineers and plumbers

Is metaphor a verb? If so, a number of writers have taken Esther Duflo's recent Ely Lecture, "The Economist as Plumber,*" as an invitation to metaphor. The essays below add to the stock of metaphorical economists, in which you can find economists as artisans and craftspeople, weather forecasters, doctors and medical scientists, entrepreneurs, and of course as dentists, architects, engineers and now plumbers.

Here's Tim Harford (initially in the FT but now ungated on his blog The Undercover Economist):
Why economists should be more like plumbers

And here's Beatrice Cherrier, whose blog is called The Undercover Historian:
From physicists to engineers to meds to plumbers: Esther Duflo rediscovering the lost art of economics @ASSA2017

* and here's the video of Esther's Ely Lecture
AEA Richard T. Ely Lecture: The Economist as Plumber: Large Scale Experiments to Inform the Details of Policy Making Esther Duflo, introduced by Alvin E. Roth  View Webcast

Update: here's the NBER working paper The Economist as Plumber
(And here's the interesting acknowledgements, which identifies some master plumbers...)

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Yuji Ijiri (1935-2017)

Yuji Ijiri passed away earlier this month. He was one of the pioneers of accounting as a form of information economics, with all that has meant for accounting rules as design features of organizations.

Here's the obituary from Carnegie Mellon University, where he taught until his retirement in 2011:
Thursday, January 19, 2017
Inventor of triple-entry accounting was recognized internationally for accounting research and practice.

Here's his obituary in the Wall Street Journal:
Ijiri Explored Accounting’s Foundations and Charted New Directions
Bucking modern trend of estimating current values, Japanese-born professor defended historic costs

"At the age of 14, Yuji Ijiri began keeping the books at his father’s bakery in Japan. Later, as a professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, he became one of the most celebrated philosophers of accounting, illuminating its underlying logic and defending its traditions, while exploring new frontiers.

"Accountants weren't the stereotypical bean counters, following clear-cut rules that inevitably led to a certain set of numbers, Dr. Ijiri found. Instead, they were champions of accountability, struggling to find a fair balance between the needs of parties with conflicting interests. While investors pushed for maximum disclosure, for example, managers were concerned about giving out information that could benefit competitors."

Complexity of matching under substitutable preferences

The Complexity of Stable Matchings under Substitutable Preferences
Yuan Deng and Debmalya Panigrahi and Bo Waggoner

Abstract In various matching market settings, such as hospital-doctor matching markets (Hatfield and Milgrom 2005), the existence of stable outcomes depends on substitutability of preferences. But can these stable matchings be computed efficiently, as in the one-to-one matching case? The algorithm of (Hatfield and Milgrom 2005) requires efficient implementation of a choice function over substitutable preferences. We show that even given efficient access to a value oracle or preference relation satisfying substitutability, exponentially many queries may be required in the worst case to implement a choice function. Indeed, this extends to examples where a stable matching requires exponential time to compute. We characterize the computational complexity of stable matchings by showing that efficient computation of a choice function is equivalent to efficient verification—determining whether or not, for a given set, the most preferred subset is the entire set itself. Clearly, verification is necessary for computation, but we show that it is also sufficient: specifically, given a verifier, we design a polynomial-time algorithm for computing a choice function, implying an efficient algorithm for stable matching. We then show that a verifier can be implemented efficiently for various classes of functions, such as submodular functions, implying efficient stable matching algorithms for a broad range of settings. We also investigate the effect of ties in the preference order, which causes complications both in defining substitutes and in computation. In this case, we tightly connect the computational complexity of the choice function to a measure on the number of ties. 

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Academics against blanket immigration bans

As you may have heard, President Trump has signed an executive order that, among other things, temporarily bans visa entry to the U.S. for people from several countries (including Iran, which sends many students to U.S. universities, including many who remain as professors and in industry). It also takes a position I strongly disapprove about refugees (and was signed on Holocaust Remembrance Day, an occasion for me to recall with regret that we Americans did not rise well to the occasion of welcoming Jewish refugees from that genocide). I am among many academics who have signed a petition deploring these measures and imploring that they be reconsidered.

Here's the petition, still open for signatures.

Academics against immigration executive order

And here's a story in the Washington Post that explains some of the issues that particularly concern academics in our professional roles (and not just as American patriots committed to the freedom of ideas and many other freedoms).

12 Nobel laureates, thousands of academics sign protest of Trump immigration order
"What’s at stake, said Emery Berger, a professor in the College of Information and Computer Sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, who is not one of the organizers of the petition but supports the effort, begins with free exchange of information.

"But there’s more. He said he has already heard academics overseas planning to avoid, or boycott, conferences in the United States. “It’s very chilling,” he said.

"Students are horrified, he said, at the prospect of not being able to get back to their U.S. university if they return to their home country.

“I’m sure it will send really promising star students across the border to Canada or elsewhere,” Berger said. The order comes just as many U.S. universities are offering admission to overseas students for the next academic year."

Journal of Mechanism and Institution Design, vol 1, number 1 2016

The first issue of the Journal of Mechanism and Institution Design is now online here: http://www.mechanism-design.org/arch/v001-1/jMID-vol1(1)-01.pdf

Friday, January 27, 2017

Restaurants without tipping

The NY Times has the story: Year of Upheaval for Restaurants That Ended Tipping

"A rational system is exactly what he was hoping for when Huertas joined several restaurants in Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group — Maialino, Marta, the Modern, North End Grill and (as of last week) Gramercy Tavern and the newly reopened Union Square Café — that have stopped accepting tips. The switch is part of an effort to bring the nation’s roughly $800 billion restaurant business, with its frequently chaotic and unprofessional practices and traditions, in line with modern workplace standards.
Continue reading the main st
Instead of expecting customers to tip the people who wait on them, tip-free restaurants pay all employees wages that reflect their skill and seniority. The customer pays a fixed amount, stated in writing (in menu prices), as in virtually every other kind of consumer business, from Nordstrom to Netflix to The New York Times.
This service-included system — also called gratuity-free, tipless and, within the Union Square group, Hospitality Included — has been in place for several years at expensive restaurants like Per Se and the Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare. But this year, influential restaurants up and down the price scale and around the country signed on, including Le Pigeon and Park Kitchen in Portland, Ore.; Dahlia Lounge and Canlis in Seattle; and ComalCala and Petit Crenn in the Bay Area.
It is too soon to tell whether the no-tipping model will become the standard, or simply an option for a few restaurants that can make it work. What is clear after about a year is that it has forced a number of unforeseen changes, large and small, in the places that have embraced it.
"Mr. Adler of Huertas, and others, say that one big reason to end tipping is the need for more equity between those who work in kitchens, who earn straight wages, and those who work in dining rooms, who receive tips.
A more immediate motivation, local restaurateurs said, was the approach of the $15 minimum wage in 2018, proceeding in New York City on Dec. 31 with a raise to $11 an hour (from $9) for nontipped workers. “Labor is just going to cost more and more, and all restaurants will need to rethink how their people get paid,” Mr. Lavorini said.
As the dining business, especially at the high end, attracts more educated and skilled workers, there is increased pressure to treat them fairly, professionally and predictably.
With tipping, chaos is a consequence. Servers compete ruthlessly for Saturday night shifts, when tips run high, but many are no-shows for Monday lunch. An experienced line cook who carries $40,000 in debt from years of culinary school earns $12 an hour, while a new server can reap three times that much.
"The “automatic service charge” imposed at many restaurants like Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Calif., and Alinea in Chicago, can redistribute money the same way a no-tipping policy does, although states treat that revenue in different ways.
Tips are also handled differently in different states, but in New York, by law, they can be pooled and distributed only to “front of house” employees: those who work in the dining room, like waiters, bartenders and backwaiters (formerly known as busboys).
"One clear lesson: “There are certain fixed items — a glass of wine, a bar snack, a cup of coffee — that affect how guests experience the welcome of the restaurant,” Mr. Lavorini said. The prices of those items stayed where they were, even as others, including those for many bottles of wine, rose by as much as 20 percent.
"From 2015 to 2016, the payroll for the Modern’s two dozen front-of-house employees’ hourly wages rose to as much as $30 an hour from $5, through a combination of the rising tipped minimum wage, paid overtime and revenue sharing.
Also, restaurants pay taxes on their revenue, but not on income from tips. When service is folded into the price of the meal, the restaurant is taxed on that “additional” revenue.
“It took hundreds of years to build up the traditions of how things are done in restaurants,” he said. “We can’t expect to change all of that in one year.”

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Making repugnance great again

In an article about President Trump's possible nominations to the Supreme Court, the NY Times discusses Judge William H. Pryor Jr. of the federal appeals court in Atlanta, who "is a former Alabama attorney general, a graduate of Tulane’s law school and an outspoken opponent of abortion and gay rights."
"Representing Alabama, Mr. Pryor in 2003 filed a supporting brief urging the Supreme Court to uphold a Texas law that made gay sex a crime. The position of the gay men challenging the law, Mr. Pryor wrote, “must logically extend to activities like prostitution, adultery, necrophilia, bestiality, possession of child pornography, and even incest and pedophilia.”

“The states should not be required to accept, as a matter of constitutional doctrine, that homosexual activity is harmless and does not expose both the individual and the public to deleterious spiritual and physical consequences,” Mr. Pryor wrote in the brief.

At his 2003 confirmation hearing, he stood by an earlier statement that Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that established a constitutional right to abortion, was “the worst abomination of constitutional law in our history.”

“I believe that not only is the case unsupported by the text and structure of the Constitution, but it had led to a morally wrong result,” Mr. Pryor told the Senate Judiciary Committee. “It has led to the slaughter of millions of innocent unborn children.”

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Two California surrogacy stories from Europe, and a (pretty sad) one from Italy via Russia

Here's a late breaking story about an Italian couple that enlisted a surrogate in Russia, had the child taken from them by Italian authorities, and has just lost their appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.

ECHR rules in surrogate case--Court overrules its previous verdict
 "(ANSA) - Strasbourg, January 24 - The European Court of Human Rights said in a ruling Tuesday that Italy had not breached the rights of a couple after taking away a child born to a surrogate mother in Russia with whom they had no biological ties. The child was taken away from the couple after they returned from Russia following DNA testing showed that neither the man or the woman were its biological parent, even though a Russian birth certificate put them as parents.
    Tuesday's ruling overrides a previous decision made by the Strasbourg court in January 2015. "The Court considered that the contested measures had pursued the legitimate aims of preventing disorder and protecting the rights and freedoms of others," the ECHR said. "On this last point, it regarded as legitimate the Italian authorities' wish to reaffirm the State's exclusive competence to recognise a legal parent-child relationship - and this solely in the case of a biological tie or lawful adoption - with a view to protecting children".
    The child has been adopted by another family."

Surrogate motherhood: stopped by the European Court for Human Rights. The Chambre supports the Italian Court
"(Strasbourg) “The Court rules that the relationship between the applicants and the child is not part of family life”: this has been ruled by the Grande Chambre of the European Court of Human Rights, issued today about “Paradiso-Campanelli versus Italy”. The case is about an Italian couple living in the province of Campobasso, who went to Russia in 2011: through a private organisation, the married couple had had a child from a “surrogate mother” who has no biological relationship with the couple. Under Russian law, the couple could record the child as their own child, but, once back in Italy, the Court refused to record the child as the couple’s child and, after finding there was no biological relationship, it ruled that the child should be taken away from the applicants (the child was about eight months old back then) and then adopted by a different family. Today’s ruling overturns a ruling issued by the Court in January 2015: it claimed that taking the child away from the first couple breached article no. 8 of the Convention on Human Rights (right to private and family life), regardless of the child’s interest. The new ruling states, instead, that the Italian Court had actually ruled in the child’s interest and also stopped surrogate motherhood."

HT: Dorothea Kuebler
Here are two earlier stories, set in England and Italy, from the blog Above the Law. about surrogacy as a repugnant transaction (at home) and the resulting fertility tourism (to California):

1."British aristocrats, the Viscountess and Viscount Weymouth... welcomed their second son on December 30, 2016. In what is likely a first for the British aristocracy, the child was born via surrogate.
The baby boy is the second grandson of the 7th Marquess of Bath. I’ll just assume this is kind of a big deal in England. Lady Weymouth suffers from medical complications that made a second pregnancy too dangerous. So the couple turned to a California surrogate. To their credit, they are reportedly* sharing their story to help remove some of the stigma associated with surrogacy. Welcome and all hail the Right Honourable Henry Thynn. No typo. Honorable is spelled that way on purpose."
*They explain the differences between surrogacy in California and Britain as follows:
"Ceawlin explains that the US state has the most advanced legal system for the procedure. 
For example, it allows money to be exchanged, while Britain insists no more than expenses can be paid to the woman who will carry the child.
‘Obviously, we would have preferred to do it closer to home, but the legal system in Britain has not evolved with medical technology, so any contract with a surrogate is not binding,’ he says. 
‘Even if the baby is 100 per cent yours (ie the sperm and egg) the surrogate still has the right to keep the baby. California has the most evolved legal system in the world [for surrogacy].’ 
2. "Italy Is Not A Great Place To Be Gay. The parents of the twins are a gay Italian couple. While the U.S. made the move to permit gay marriage in 2015, Italy still denies same-sex couples the right to marry. Italy also denies gay couples the right to adopt children. Italian same-sex couples can’t even adopt their own family members through kinship adoptions. And, unsurprisingly, there is no same-sex step-parent adoption since gays can’t marry in the first place.
Having limited family-building options, the couple turned to an egg donor and California surrogate to conceive their children, and complete the family they dreamed of. Two embryos were transferred to the same surrogate. One was a donor egg fertilized with sperm from dad 1; the second was a donor egg, but this time fertilized with sperm from dad 2. The twins are biologically half-siblings with the same birthday. The conditions for an Arnold Schwarzenegger/Danny DeVito situation probably couldn’t have been set any higher.
This Is What Partial A Victory Looks Like. The fathers returned from the United States to Italy with their twins in tow. But the Italian government initially refused to recognize the children as (1) sons of the fathers, and 2) eligible for Italian citizenship. The fathers’ appealed, and were able to obtain what many consider a victory.
The court determined that despite the children being born to a gay couple (strike 1), using donor eggs (strike 2 – donating eggs and/or sperm is illegal in Italy) and to a surrogate (strike 3 – surrogacy is also illegal in Italy), it would be in the children’s best interest for Italy to recognize the parent-child relationship. The court awarded parental rights of each individual twin to the genetically related father."  
(NB: the two twins aren't legally related in Italy...)
"It Could Have Been Much Worse. While this was not a complete victory, it was a step forward for Italy. In prior cases, an Italian court has denied parentage to both parents — or even taken away a surrogate-born child from the parents and made the child a ward of the state! In an infamous case from 2014, an infertile couple in their 50s — who had been turned down for adoption three times — turned to surrogacy. They paid a Ukrainian surrogate €25,000 to carry a child conceived with donated genetic material. When they brought the child back to Italy, the government refused to register the child as theirs and charged them with fraud. Sadly, the court went further, ruling that the child, whose genetic and surrogate parents were unknown, was a “child of no one.” Despite even an Italian prosecutor advising that the child be allowed to stay with the intended parents, the court ruled that the child must become a ward of the state and put up for adoption. Heartbreaking.
Europe’s Anti-Surrogate Tendencies. Italy is not an anomaly. Most of Western Europe (including France, Spain, and Germany, among others) bans surrogacy. This has led to a number of troubling cases when Europeans go elsewhere for surrogacy and then try to bring their children home. In France, for instance, several surrogacy cases have involved French courts denying parental rights. But couples have had success appealing to the European Court of Human Rights. There, a child’s right to his or her parents has prevailed over French domestic law."

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Lifesharers has shut down:

With a whimper rather than a bang (I just noticed it recently), the valiant, Quixotic attempt to introduce--via a private club--priority for deceased donation to those who were registered donors themselves, has ended.
(see my post from 2008: Tuesday, December 23, 2008 Lifesharers: organ donation as a club good rather than a public good

Here's the lifesharers final anouncment:

Monday, March 21, 2016

LifeSharers has shut down.

"If your durable power of attorney for healthcare mentions your agreement to donate your organs through LifeSharers, you should change it.

If you have told your family and/or your doctors that you want to donate your organs through LifeSharers, you should let them know that's no longer possible."
It was an interesting but doomed attempt to do privately something very much like what has been done publicly in Israel -- here are my posts on priority donation in Israel.

Judd Kessler and I proposed a model which distinguished between the effective Israeli approach and the well-intentioned but inefficacious Lifesharers approach as follows. In Israel, those who register for donation gain priority for the already existing pool of deceased donors, while in Lifesharers the initial members only gain priority for each other. So, if there is even a small cost of joining, there is an equilibrium at which no one joins lifesharers, and indeed, unfortunately, it seems that Lifesharers never gained enough members to facilitate even a single transplant.

Contrast the difficulty of getting mutual donation going (with each death leading to only a very low probability of making a donation possible), with the easier task faced by the 19 Century Society for Mutual Autopsy 

Monday, January 23, 2017

Evolution of the online dating business

The NY Times and Consumer Reports bring us up to date on dating.  And (at the end of this long post) making dating great again in the new political environment..

Here's the NY Times:

For Online Dating Sites, a Bumpy Road to Love

"Not many people have heard of Spark Networks, but far more are familiar with what it owns: JDate, ChristianMingle and a host of other sites like SilverSingles.com and BlackSingles.com.
"according to Spark Networks’ 2015 filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the number of paid subscribers to its Jewish networks declined to around 65,000 last year from a little over 85,000 in 2012. Its total for all networks dropped by more than 55,000 people, to under 204,000.
This comes at a time when an increasing number of Americans are trying to find partners online. According to the Pew Research Center, 15 percent of Americans have used online dating sites or mobile apps, compared with 11 percent in 2013. Spark Network’s revenues fell nearly 22 percent from 2014 to 2015.
"There are about 4,500 online dating companies, according to a report by the market research company IBISWorld, but the majority are tiny. The largest player in the field is the Match Group, with 51 dating sites; over the last few years alone it acquired such high-profile companies as Tinder and Plenty of Fish.
“It’s never been cheaper to start a dating site and never been more expensive to grow one,” said Mark Brooks, a consultant for the internet dating industry who also runs Online Personals Watch. Part of the problem, he said, is that 70 percent of internet dating in the United States is now on mobile.
"Dating apps usually start by offering their services completely free to bring in new users. There are then two ways for the services to make money: advertising and turning free users into paying ones.
“It used to be 10 percent of those who registered converted to paid,” Mr. Brooks said. “Now it’s more like 2 to 3 percent.”
Advertising can be tough to get, said Tom Homer, editor of the website Dating Site Reviews, and on a mobile device it does not pay much because there is less real estate available than on regular websites.
"Some also see a move toward ever more niche sites like MouseMingle.com (Disney lovers) and GlutenFreeSingles.com (the name says it all). But, when you slice the pie ever thinner, “you’re also slicing your membership base,” Mr. Homer said."

And from Consumer Reports: Online Dating: Match Me If You Can
"According to a 2015 study by the Pew Research Center, 15 percent of American adults have used online dating sites (web-based platforms like Match.com) and/or dating apps (location-based smartphone apps like Tinder).

Participation by those 18 to 24 has almost tripled since 2013, and boomer enrollment has doubled. In fact, people over 50 are one of the fastest growing segments. “It’s a product of the growing normalcy of using social media apps,” says Moira Weigel, author of “Labor of Love: The Invention of Online Dating” (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2016). “Our real-life and online identities are more and more interwoven.”
"Our survey included many people who at some point had used a dating website or an app, as well as a subset of 9,600 respondents who used them in the past two years. The more recently active group rated specific sites.

"Our findings tell an almost contradictory story. On the one hand, the numbers indicate that these sites are helping people find mates. A whopping 44 percent of respondents who tried online dating said the experience led to a serious long-term relationship or marriage. That kind of connection rate would shatter Hall of Fame records, at least in baseball.

But the responses from the more active group suggest they’re highly frustrated. They gave online dating sites the lowest satisfaction scores Consumer Reports has ever seen for services rendered—lower even than for tech-support providers, notoriously poor performers in our ratings.
"Michael Norton, Ph.D., a professor at the Harvard Business School who studies consumer behavior, thinks so. Online dating is different from shopping for, say, a sweater, he explains: “Once you decide on the sweater you want, you can get it. But with dating, the sweater has to agree, too.”

Another reason for the low satisfaction scores may be that “most dating sites have some misalignment between profit model and user experience because they are financed through subscription fees or advertising,” says Scott Kominers, Ph.D., a junior fellow in economics at Harvard University. In other words, there’s no incentive for them to make the experience speedy. If you find your life partner on your first date, the site doesn’t make much money off you. Our survey found that among respondents who stopped online dating, 20 percent of men and 40 percent of women said they did so because they didn’t like the quality of their matches. Perhaps that’s why, among those who said they had used multiple dating sites, 28 percent had tried four or more.

But our research also found that online dating, however painful and time-consuming, often does produce the intended result if you use it well—and persevere.
“You’re generally going to be best off starting your search on the ‘Big 3’: Match.com, OkCupid, and Plenty of Fish,” says Scott Valdez, founder of Virtual Dating Assistants, which helps people write their profiles and then manages their accounts. “Those are among the most popular dating sites in the world, and when you’re fishing, it just makes sense to drop your line in the most crowded ponds.”

That’s generally true unless you have a particular guiding factor, such as religion, race, or politics, in which case you can go to a niche site like JDate or BlackPeopleMeet.

Finally, Could you date someone whose politics you couldn't stand? Could your political views get you a date?  Have I got the dating site for you...
https://trumpsingles.com/  making dating great again...

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Bestiality: legal in some states and illegal in others

Here's a repugnance story from the Guardian:
'A great victory for animals': bestiality may finally be outlawed in Ohio
A bill banning sexual abuse of animals passed the state legislature as a result of a campaign by an animal welfare charity is aiming to prohibit bestiality nationwide

"Ohio has moved one step closer to outlawing bestiality after a bill banning sexual abuse of animals passed the state legislature.
"The bill is the result of a lengthy campaign by the Humane Society of the United States, an animal welfare charity which is aiming to ban bestiality nationwide.

“The passage of animal sexual abuse legislation is a great victory for the animals of Ohio,” said Leighann Lassiter, animal cruelty policy director at the Humane Society.

"Lassiter and the bill’s sponsors, Ohio senators Jim Hughes and Jay Hottinger, have stated that animal abuse can often be a precursor to the abuse of children.
"The bill prohibits a person from “sexual conduct” with an animal, but also targets what Lassiter described as “organized sex rings”.

“There are people out there who train animals for sex,” she said. “You can give them your dog and they will train your dog to have sex with a human and send it back to you. And they get paid for it.
"States where bestiality is illegal do have animal cruelty laws, Lassiter said, but these are often inadequate when it comes to people sexually abusing animals. A person sexually abusing an animal might only be prosecuted if the animal is injured, while livestock or wild animals may be exempt from existing law.
"Lassiter said some states are lacking specific bestiality laws because animal sex abuse was covered under historic laws that also banned gay sex. In some cases when those laws were repealed bestiality was not reintroduced as an offense.

"Bestiality is currently legal in Vermont, Texas, West Virginia, Kentucky, Nevada, Hawaii, Wyoming, New Mexico and Ohio, and in Washington DC."

Cash for places in college admissions

In England, The Telegraph is shocked to report
'Cash for places’: leading private schools accept six-figure sums from rich overseas parents desperate to get their child admitted

"One of Britain’s leading private schools is exposed for being prepared to accept vast donations to secure places for the children of overseas parents.

"David Fletcher, the registrar at Stowe until this week, was filmed saying a six-figure payment would be helpful when there was a “marginal decision” over whether a pupil should be admitted.

"Mr Fletcher, 60, told an undercover reporter that one overseas family had recently given £100,000 towards a project at the school, in order to help secure a place for their child.
"Anthony Wallersteiner, headmaster at Stowe, said he was “shocked” by the suggestion a donation would have any influence..."

Perhaps they should read the 2006 book
 The Price of Admission: How America's Ruling Class Buys Its Way into Elite Colleges--and Who Gets Left Outside the Gates  by Daniel Golden

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Some interviews on (mostly) market design in Argentina and Brazil

In the magazine of UCEMA: Market design

In the Brazilian magazine Exame.com:
Um vencedor do prêmio Nobel defende a mão visível do mercado
Para Alvin E. Roth, vencedor do Prêmio Nobel de Economia em 2012, a ciência é a arma para corrigir as falhas de mercados que não funcionam livremente
[Google translate: A Nobel Prize winner defends the visible hand of the market
For Alvin E. Roth, winner of the Nobel Prize for Economics in 2012, science is the weapon to correct the failures of markets that do not work freely]

Here's one in which the questions focused less on what I know about:)
Roth, Nobel de Economía: "Los bonos de EE.UU. serán menos atractivos con Trump"
Distinguido en 2012, comenta el peso que pueden tener los matching markets para un mercado como el argentino. Además, su visión sobre un posible default estadounidense.
Por Santiago Lilo
[Google translate: Roth, Nobel laureate: "US bonds will be less attractive to Trump"
Distinguished in 2012, comments the weight that can have the matching markets for a market like the Argentine. In addition, his vision on a possible American default.]

Friday, January 20, 2017

Two minutes of advice for President Trump from Economics Nobel Laureates

One of the few occasions in which I get the last word (at least in this video):

Who Gets What and Why in Chinese, traditional characters

Chinese translations come in two versions, simplified characters (primarily for the mainland) and traditional characters, primarily for Taiwan and Hong Kong.
The traditional character version of Who Gets What and Why has recently come out in Taiwan, here's a link and a picture:


Who Gets What-and Why: The New Economics of Matchmaking and Market Design


Google translate renders the top title as "Create money can not buy the opportunity: the Nobel Prize in economics to break through the thinking of the market economy game."

(You can compare it to the version in simplified characters, below, but this isn't a good way to learn the difference, since the two books have different translators, and the translation of the title into simplified characters apparently says something about the "sharing economy.") Who Gets What - and Why: The New Economics of Matchmaking and Market Design(chinese edition) Paperback – 2015

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Trade secrets: obstetric forceps

The Atlantic has an interesting short article on the history of surgical forceps to aid in difficult births:

The Family of Surgeons That Got Famous by Secretly Using Forceps
The metal tools have saved many lives since the 1500s, but they’ve also come to reflect slow progress in women’s health care.

"Obstetric forceps were invented in the mid-1500s, when bloodletting was still a common medical practice. They predate the stethoscope and the germ theory of disease. They were also, for many years, a closely held trade secret. For more than three generations, as Randi Hutter Epstein writes in Get Me Out: A History of Childbirth from the Garden of Eden to the Sperm Bank, they were used exclusively by a single family of indifferently educated surgeons, the Chamberlens, who hid the steely secret of their success.
Forceps were a vast improvement on previous emergency-childbirth practices, which were more or less limited to breaking the mother’s pubic bone, performing a Caesarian section (procedures that could save the fetus but often killed the mother), or stabbing or cutting the fetus in utero (which invariably killed the fetus but sometimes saved the mother).
The Chamberlens and their forceps ended this ongoing zero-sum tragedy, and became famous as the best “man-midwives” in England. To maintain their reputation and boost their business, however, they concealed their forceps in medical bags and under surgical draperies. Not until the 1700s did they release the design of their invention, and the original instruments remained within the family until 1813, when a pair of Chamberlen forceps was discovered under the floorboards of a country mansion where the family once lived."

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The legal Alaskan market for walrus ivory

Unlike elephant ivory, there's a legal market in walrus ivory, which can be crafted and sold by "Alaska Natives (Indians, Aleuts, or Eskimos) who reside in Alaska and dwell on the coast of the North Pacific Ocean or the Arctic Ocean".

But the protections given to elephants limit the demand for walrus ivory.
Alaska Despatch News has the story:
Effort to save African elephants hurts Alaska Native ivory artists

"African elephants, targeted by poachers and trophy hunters, are listed as a threatened species. The United States this summer strengthened rules into a near-total ban on any trading in elephant ivory.

"The Pacific walrus is a candidate for protection under the Endangered Species Act, but climate change is the big threat to that species, not poaching. Under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, Alaska Native hunters can target walrus, Native artists can harvest, buy and carve their ivory, and anyone can purchase the art.
"Yet some states concerned about decimated elephant populations have banned walrus ivory too, creating anxiety for Alaska artisans, uncertainty for buyers and an agenda item for politicians."

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Market Design and Operations Research: an interview by the journal Mathematics of Operations Research

The journal Mathematics of Operations Research, where the main paper from my dissertation was published in 1976, has published an interview with me in their Author Spotlight section: In Conversation with...ALVIN E. ROTH.

Here's the first question and answer:

INFORMS:  Your first published paper, “Subsolutions and the Supercore of Cooperative Games,” [2]based on your doctoral thesis, appeared in MOR in 1976. The paper was handled by Nobel winner and MOR Founding Area Editor Robert Aumann. Can you share with us how your first experience with the peer review process went?

ROTH:  I recall that experience vividly. Aumann, in his editor’s letter, told me to ignore the referees, but to revise the paper along the lines he would describe. One revision he wanted had to do with the proof of my main theorem, for which I had used Zorn’s Lemma. He advised me to try to construct a proof which instead used transfinite induction. I didn’t know what transfinite induction was, so I was very skeptical, but I grimly trudged to the math library and got a copy of Hausdorff’s book Set Theory [3] to repair this gap in my education. I still remember how my hopes lifted when I opened the book and saw that it had been translated from the German by…Aumann. It turned out that he knew what he was talking about, and the proof that appears in my published MOR paper uses transfinite induction.

At the Author Spotlight page they also link to the several papers I published in MOR:

  • Roth AE (1976) Subsolutions and the Supercore of Cooperative Games. Math. Oper. Res. 1(1):43–49.  
  • Roth AE (1977) Individual rationality and Nash’s solution to the bargaining problem. Math. Oper. Res. 2(1): 64–65. 
  • Roth AE (1982) The economics of matching: Stability and incentives. Math. Oper. Res. 7(4):617–628. 
  • Roth AE (1985) Conflict and coincidence of interest in job matching: Some new results and open questions. Math. Oper. Res. 10(3):379–389.*  
  • Roth AE, Rothblum UG, Vande Vate, JH (1993) Stable matchings, optimal assignments, and linear programming. Math. Oper. Res. 18(4): 803–828. 

  • Since becoming a notorious economist, I've had a number of conversations with operations researchers that begin with a question like "Why did you switch from OR to Economics?"

    My usual answer is that I got my Ph.D. in OR in 1974 with a dissertation in game theory, and it looked at that time as if OR would be a natural place for game theory to flourish, particularly since Bob Aumann was the founding game theory editor of MOR. But, as it turned out, game theory grew first and fastest in Economics. So I just stood my ground, while the disciplinary boundaries shifted around me. Today, market design has become the engineering part of game theory, and it's time for OR and Economics to reconnect around market design. And indeed at Stanford, many of the Ph.D. students in our market design classes in the econ department are OR students from our MS&E department or from our Business school, both of which in turn have market designers on their faculty.  So I'm optimistic that my dual identities as an economist and operations researcher may soon seem seamless.

    *Beware, my 1985 paper contains an error about the lattice structure of stable matchings, that was noted and corrected by
    Charles Blair (1988), "The Lattice Structure of the Set of Stable Matchings with Multiple Partners,"  Mathematics of Operations Research 13(4):619-628. http://dx.doi.org/10.1287/moor.13.4.619
    and also by
    Jianrong Li, (2013) A Note on Roth's Consensus Property of Many-to-One Matching. Mathematics of Operations Research 38(2):389-392. http://dx.doi.org/10.1287/moor.1120.0576 

    Monday, January 16, 2017

    Invitation to celebrate Bob Wilson in Chicago: CME Group-MSRI Prize

    Here's an invitation to a Wilson celebration in Chicago early next month...

    Join us for the 11th annual CME Group-MSRI Prize in Innovation Quantitative Applications honoring Stanford University Professor Robert Wilson

    CME Group Center for Innovation and the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI) cordially invite you to the 11th annual CME Group-MSRI Prize in Innovative Quantitative Applications seminar and award reception honoring:

    Adams Distinguished Professor of Management, Emeritus
    Stanford Graduate School of Business

    February 2, 2017
    9:00 AM: Seminar
    12:00 PM: Luncheon & Award Presentation 

    CME Group Headquarters
    20 South Wacker Dr. 
    Chicago, IL 60606

    Seminar: Frontiers of Game-Theoretic Applications in Economics
    Featured Speakers:


    Drew Fudenberg
    Professor of Economics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology


    Srihari Govindan
    Professor, Department of Economics, University of Rochester


    Bengt Holmström
    Paul A. Samuelson Professor of Economics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    2016 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences Recipient
    2013 Recipient of the CME Group-MSRI Prize in Innovative Quantitative Applications


    Paul Milgrom
    Shirley R. and Leonard W. Ely Jr. Professor of Humanities and Sciences, Economics Department, Stanford University


    Roger Myerson
    Glen A. Lloyd Distinguished Service Professor of Economics, University of Chicago
    2007 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences Recipient


    Philip Reny
    The Hugo F. Sonnenschein Distinguished Service Professor in Economics and the College, University of Chicago


    Alvin Roth
    Craig and Susan McCaw Professor of Economics, Department of Economics, Stanford University
    2012 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences Recipient