Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Ed Glaeser reviews Who Gets What and Why in the Journal of Economic Literature

Ed has written a generous review in the Journal of Economic Literature, of my book and of the field of market design. His review gave me an inkling of what it was like to read the book rather than to have written it*.

Glaeser, Edward L.. 2017. "A Review Essay on Alvin Roth's Who Gets What—And Why." Journal of Economic Literature, 55(4):1602-14.

Abstract: Alvin Roth’s Who Gets What—And Why provides a richly accessible introduction to his pioneering work on market design. Much of economics ignores the institutions that allocate goods, blithely assuming that the mythical Walrasian auctioneer will handle everything perfectly. But markets do fail and Roth details those failures, like the market for law clerks that unravels because clerks and judges commit to each other too quickly. Roth combines theory and pragmatic experience to show how the economist can engineer successful markets. He has even enabled welfare-improving trades in kidney exchanges, where law and social repugnance forbids cash payments.


*To put it another way, I'm reminded of Ralph Waldo Emerson's line "“Tis the good reader that makes the good book...," or maybe Samuel Johnson “A writer only begins a book. A reader finishes it.”

Monday, December 11, 2017

Wales' organ donation opt-out law has not increased donors--BBC

Here's the story from the BBC:
Wales' organ donation opt-out law has not increased donors

"Wales' opt-out system for organ donation has not increased the number of donors in the two years since it was introduced, a study has confirmed.
"Adults in Wales are presumed to have consented to organ donation unless they have opted out.
"The data was published in a Welsh Government report about the impact of the Human Transplantation (Wales) Act.
"In the 21 months before the law changed in December 2015 there were 101 deceased donors in Welsh hospitals. The data showed there were 104 in the same time period since the law change.
Every quarter NHS Blood and Transplant releases figures for organ donation for each county in the UK.
Mr Gething acknowledged the figures and added: "The report suggests this may be because there have been fewer eligible donors over the short period since the change in law.
"It's important to remember that it's too early to know what the true impact of the change will be, but I'm confident we have started to create a culture where organ donation is openly discussed."


HT: Frank McCormick

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Different ways of being a bad apple

Readers of this blog may be familiar with the article by Judge Alex Kozinski about how he hires and interacts with law clerks, earlier than his competitors:
Confessions of a Bad Apple, The Yale Law Journal, Vol. 100, No. 6 (Apr., 1991), pp. 1707-1730

It began as follows:



I was sad to notice this Dec 8 Washington Post story which reports that Judge Kozinski is the latest public figure to face credible allegations, from six of his former clerks, of being a different sort of bad apple.

Prominent appeals court Judge Alex Kozinski accused of sexual misconduct

Saturday, December 9, 2017

The gray market for marijuana in Holland

The combination of a legal market and an illegal one makes for a gray market, which seems to be the situation of marijuana sellers in the Netherlands. (Not so different from legal marijuana sellers in some American states, who still run afoul of federal laws...)

The Guardian has the story:
Netherlands coffee shop case highlights 'paradox' of cannabis laws

"With 3,000 customers a day, a restaurant, ample parking and turnover of €26m (£23m) a year, Checkpoint cafe, the largest cannabis-selling coffee shop in the Netherlands, was a fabulous commercial success.

"That was until it was closed down in 2009 for testing to the limits what the Dutch describe as their gedogenbeleid (tolerance policy) under which prosecutors turn a blind eye to the breaking of certain laws, including in the business of selling cannabis.

"The latest and most likely final appeal hearing of criminal charges against the cafe’s owner, Meddie Willemsen, has highlighted what the president of a court in Den Bosch described as “paradoxes” in the Dutch approach to so-called soft drugs.

"Licensed coffee shops are allowed to sell cannabis from their premises, but can keep only 500g on site at any time. Production of the drug is illegal.

"When Checkpoint was at its peak, Willemsen, 66, was regularly keeping about 200kg of cannabis on his large premises in Terneuzen, near the Belgian border. The size of the enterprise could have led to fairly reasonable assumptions that those providing the drugs would be large criminal gangs.

"Prosecutors were informed by the court that while Checkpoint cafe was certainly criminal, local authorities had effectively aided it at times and turned a blind eye for long enough that punishment of the owner would be inappropriate.

"The court heard the illegal activity was necessary for a cafe of Checkpoint’s size. The president ruled: “That is punishable. But at the same time not to be avoided when you run a well-functioning coffee shop.”
...
"The president of the court in Den Bosch said the story of Checkpoint cafe highlighted the absurdity of the law in the Netherlands, where selling cannabis at the front of the shop is legal, under strict criteria, but production and sourcing of it at the back is illegal. “Here lies a task for the legislator,” the president said.

"In 2012, the Dutch government changed the law to criminalise sales by coffee shops to customers who cannot prove they live in the Netherlands. There is a dispensation for people in Amsterdam, on the grounds that the practice is part of the attraction for tourists visiting the city.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Hiring America's soldiers

The veterans' publication Task and Purpose has the story:
The Recruiters: Searching For The Next Generation Of Warfighters In A Divided America  By ADAM LINEHAN 

"Since the draft was ended in 1973, recruiting has become one of the most important jobs in the military. For the Army, it’s imperative. While the Marine Corps prides itself on being lean, mean, and agile, and the Navy and Air Force increasingly rely on unmanned vehicles and long-range munitions, the Army’s greatest contribution to the battlefield is, and always has been, people. Roughly 70% of the nearly 7,000 U.S. troops killed so far in Iraq and Afghanistan were Army soldiers. Most were recruited through centers like the one in East Orange.

"Headquartered in Fort Knox, Kentucky, U.S. Army Recruiting Command, or USAREC, manages the recruiting mission for the service’s active-duty and reserve components. It is a massive, ever-evolving operation involving approximately 12,500 military and civilian personnel spread across 1,400 recruiting centers in the United States and abroad, including in Europe and Guam. Roughly $4.6 billion of the Army’s $33.8 billion budget for fiscal year 2017 was allotted for recruiting and training new soldiers; $424 million of that was spent on bonuses alone. The Army also poured more than $289 million into television, radio, digital media, direct mail, and sports-related advertising campaigns. A lot of blood, sweat, and tears goes into keeping the ranks filled with qualified volunteers. The recruiting machine never stops.

"The biggest factor in recruiting success is the health of the economy. Typically, when the unemployment rate goes up, so does the number of Americans wanting to join the military. Nonetheless, the more economically stressed, socioeconomic classes tend to be underrepresented in the armed forces. Although people in low-income neighborhoods are generally more inclined than their wealthier compatriots to enlist, fewer and fewer have the qualifications to serve. Rising standards are part of the reason. But so are a host of societal problems that tend to hit disenfranchised populations especially hard, such as increasing obesity rates and a public education system that disadvantages low-income zip codes.

"Currently, only about 29% of Americans between the ages of 17–24 are eligible to serve. Disqualifiers include lack of a high-school diploma or GED; tattoos on the hand, face, or neck; a wide range of physical and mental-health problems; a history of illegal drug use, and a criminal record.
...
"Bryant believes the Army could keep its ranks filled by focusing on a handful of states, most of them south of the Mason-Dixon line, while paying extra attention to communities within those states that have formed around military installations. Current trends support this view: Of the newest crop of Army recruits, half came from just seven states; 79% had relatives who served. The military has become increasingly — some would even add dangerously — insular since the advent of the all-volunteer force. As the journalist Thomas E. Ricks noted in a 1997 article for The Atlantic titled The Widening Gap Between Military and Society, this trend toward homogeneity was likely accelerated by the closing of dozens of bases and installations following the end of the Cold War, which significantly reduced the military’s footprint in the West and Northeast. 

“You can kind of draw a smiley face from North Carolina around the southern United States halfway up California, and that’s where the majority of [military] post, camps, and stations are,” Snow said. “Youth who have more interaction with those in uniform tend to [be more likely to enlist].” Could the Army shutter its recruiting centers in the Northeast and still meet its quotas? Snow suspects it could. “But then we’re getting away from the very principles that we pride ourselves on, and that’s that we are a microcosm of society,” he added.  

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Behavioral and Experimental Health Economics conference at Georgia State

Here's the announcement:
5th Workshop in Behavioral and Experimental Health Economics, Dec 7-8, 2017

General Information

Following the success of previous workshops in Oslo, Hamilton, Essen and Cologne, we are pleased to host the 5th Workshop on Behavioral and Experimental Health Economics in Atlanta. The workshop brings together economists who apply behavioral economics and experimental methods in health economics research to present and discuss their research papers. We also welcome researchers from related fields, such as Public Health, Epidemiology and Medicine. We welcome contributions on all topics within health economics using experimental methods and behavioral economics applications.
...

Keynote

The primary keynote address will be given by Professor Judd Kessler from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania: http://assets.wharton.upenn.edu/~juddk/. Judd received a B.A. in Economics from Harvard University in 2004, an M.Phil. in Economics from Cambridge University in 2005, and a Ph.D. in Business Economics from Harvard University in 2011. In his research he uses a combination of laboratory and field experiments to answer questions in Public Economics and market design. He investigates the economic and psychological forces that motivate individuals to contribute to public goods, with applications including organ donation, worker effort, and charitable giving. He also investigates market design innovations, placing particular emphasis on bringing market design from theory to practice, with applications including course allocation and priority systems for organ allocation. Judd’s research has appeared in general interest journals including the American Economic Review, the Quarterly Journal of Economics, and Management Science, as well as specialist journals such as Health Economics and American Journal of TransplantationAnnals of Internal Medicine, and the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

Same sex marriage is now legal in Australia

From the NY Times: Australia Makes Same-Sex Marriage Legal

"SYDNEY, Australia — Australia’s Parliament voted overwhelmingly to legalize same-sex marriage on Thursday, overcoming years of conservative resistance to enact change that the public had made clear that it wanted.
The final approval in the House of Representatives, with just four votes against the bill, came three weeks after a national referendum showed strong public support for gay marriage. The Senate passed the legislation last week.
“This belongs to us all,” Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, a longtime supporter of same-sex marriage who had previously failed to get it legalized, said on Thursday. “This is Australia: fair, diverse, loving and filled with respect. For every one of us this is a great day.”
...
"A handful of lawmakers tried to add amendments that they said were meant to safeguard religious freedoms for opponents of same-sex marriage, but their efforts failed. Mr. Turnbull noted that nothing in the legislation requires ministers or other celebrants to oversee weddings of gay couples or threatens the charity status of religious groups that oppose same-sex marriage, two concerns the lawmakers had raised."

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Temporary brothels in Britain

The Guardian has the story:

How ‘pop-up’ brothels transformed Britain’s suburban sex industry
MPs are investigating a surge in flats being used short-term for prostitution – but the women who work in them say they often have no safer option

"Last month, MPs launched an inquiry into the apparent rise of so-called “pop-up” or temporary brothels. The phenomenon, where sex workers use Airbnb, hotels, or short-term holiday lets as a work base, has caused concern among politicians and the police. But what is the reality for women working in brothels in Britain today, and what is driving them to work in temporary set-ups?
“People think we’re either in five-star hotels or we’re on flea-bitten mattresses with a line of men outside the door,” says Amy, a single mother who works in the north London brothel. “Both of those things are real, both of those things happen, but the vast majority of us are just somewhere in the middle. Demystifying it is really important.”
...
"After a year, she found her current place with two others. With CCTV and a panic alarm, she says the more permanent setup means she has better security measures: “I honestly can’t imagine working any other way now and it astounds me that what we’re doing is technically illegal.”
Still, she does not want to paint a rose-tinted picture of her new situation. “When [sex workers] are talking to the press, there’s a lot of pressure for us to be like, ‘Oh I love my job, everything’s great’ when it’s not great. It’s like any other job – you have good days and bad days. It’s just like being in any kind of office job, or a call centre, just with more nudity, and dildos everywhere,” she jokes.
"Like many sex workers, trust and communication with the police is a huge issue for her and her workmates. “At the moment, I have absolutely no trust in the police whatsoever,” she says. “You can literally go from being the victim, to being the criminal in a matter of minutes.”
...
"How the law stands
  • There are an estimated 72,800 sex workers operating in the UK.
  • In a study of 6,000 men, 11% reported paying for sex. More than a half of these said they paid for sex outside the UK.
  • The mortality rate for sex workwers is 12 times higher than average.
  • Keeping or managing a brothel is illegal under the 1956 Sexual Offences Act.
  • The sale and purchase of sexual services is legal in England and Wales, but certain related activities are not.
  • In 2015 Northern Ireland made it illegal to pay for sex. The first prosecution was in October 2017."