Saturday, April 21, 2018

FCC receives Edelman award for incentive spectrum auction

Advancing wireless communication: FCC awarded the 2018 INFORMS Edelman Award, the leading award in analytics and operations research

"The FCC conducted the world’s first two-sided “Incentive Auction” to meet the exploding demand for wireless services by reclaiming valuable low-band electromagnetic spectrum from TV broadcasters. By purchasing spectrum from TV broadcasters and reselling it to wireless providers, the auction repurposed 84 MHz of TV spectrum for mobile broadband, next-generation “5-G,” and other wireless uses, raised nearly $20 billion in revenue, and contributed over $7 billion to reduce the federal deficit. In addition, operations research enabled many TV stations to remain on their original channels, saving an estimated $200 million in relocation costs.  "

I have written quite a number of posts focusing on the incentive auction, and on the dream team led by Paul Milgrom; here's one of the first:

Monday, April 21, 2014

Friday, April 20, 2018

Parag Pathak wins the American Economic Association's Clark Medal

Here's the announcement, which describes Parag's work well:
Parag Pathak, Clark Medalist 2018

Parag Pathak

See my earlier posts involving Pathak here.

Congratulations Parag, on a well deserved award!

Here's MIT's celebration of Parag:
Parag Pathak wins John Bates Clark Medal
MIT economist lauded for work on education, market-design mechanisms.

Should (government) economists be licensed? (Replies from a panel of academic economists)

The question below, on Occupational Licensing for Economists, is the latest question answered by the distinguished panel of (academic) economists who make up Chicago Booth's IGM Forum.  (IGM = Initiative on Global Markets.)

It took me a moment to parse the question, i.e. to figure out that "disagree" means that requiring a Ph.D. would be a good thing. (A number of those who did disagree nevertheless noted that the word "requiring" was perhaps stronger than they would like.)

For no particular reason, I'm reminded of the old Soviet joke about the party chairman reviewing the Victory Day Parade of troops marching and flying and riding before him in the Kremlin. At the end of the parade comes a jeep full of men in suits, and he inquires of the Field Marshall next to him on the grandstand: "Comrade Field Marshall, who are those people, and why are they in the parade?" To which the Field Marshall replies: Comrade Secretary, those are the economists. You have no idea the damage they can do."

I say it's a Soviet joke, but of course I heard in English, as a child in New York. So, during a visit to Moscow, I took the opportunity of saying to one of my local colleagues "I know a joke that I was told was an old Soviet joke." He listened to me tell it, and before I could identify the men in suits, he jumped in with the equivalent punchline he knew "they are Gosplan!"    So it turns out to be an old Soviet joke in Moscow as well as in NY.

That said, and to the point of the IGM question above, here in the U.S. I find myself missing the government economists of yore...

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Antitrust and competition in an internet economy: conference at the Stigler Center

Here's where I'll be today (unfortunately only for the first day of a two day conference), speaking about promoting/preserving competition in matching markets:


APRIL 19–20, 2018

About the Conference
The economic and societal role of the handful of large companies known as “digital platforms" has grown dramatically in the last decade. Google, Amazon, and Facebook are not only transforming communication, media, and retail but have the potential to transform many other industries. While they invest billions in research and development and propel important innovation, they also raise many policy questions with regard to their dominance in many markets, the vast consumer data they collect and own, and their influence on the markets for news, information, and ideas. On April 19 and 20, 2018, the Stigler Center at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business will dedicate its annual Antitrust and Competition conference to the topic of “Digital Platforms and Concentration.”
Issues to be discussed at the conference include, among others:
  • The characteristics and market power of two-sided markets 
  • How competition can be promoted in a world of network effects 
  • The economics of free products and the challenges they pose to antitrust and existing law 
  • The collection, monetization, and ownership of personal data 
  • Digital companies’ foray into the physical world
  • How and to what degree digital companies are involved in political decision making
  • How the startup ecosystem is affected by the presence of big players 
The invitation-only conference will bring together approximately 50 economists, law scholars, intellectuals, venture capitalists, and business people for two days of discussion. The keynote speakers will be Makan Delrahim, assistant attorney general of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division, Alvin Roth, the 2012 Nobel laureate in economics, and Jean Tirole, the 2014 Nobel laureate in economics.
The conference will be by invitation only. Individuals interested in receiving an invitation, please submit your invitation request here.
Watch Live
The conference will be LIVE-STREAMED. See video link HERE. 
Times are listed in Central Time.
Times are listed in Central Time.
Thursday, April 19, 2018
8:00 a.m. – 8:20 a.m.
8:20 a.m. – 8:25 a.m.
Welcome remarks Guy Rolnik, Conference Organizer, University of Chicago Booth School of Business
8:25 a.m. – 8:30 a.m.
Opening remarks Daniel Diermeier, Provost, University of Chicago
8:30 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.
The Rise of Digital Platforms
The economic and societal role of digital platforms has grown dramatically in the last decade. Are the large Internet companies really “platforms”? Can they have outsized influence in many market and industries? What explains the size and success of these companies? Are they designing their products to be addictive? What are the most important policy questions that these companies raise?
Moderator: Patrick Foulis, New York Bureau Chief, The Economist
  • Robert Epstein, Senior Research Psychologist, American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology
  • Tristan Harris, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Center for Humane Technology
  • Kevin Murphy, George J. Stigler Distinguished Service Professor of Economics, University of Chicago Booth School of Business
  • Fiona Scott Morton, Theodore Nierenberg Professor of Economics, Yale University School of Management
  • Chad Syverson, Eli B. and Harriet B. Williams Professor of Economics, University of Chicago Booth School of Business
  • Ben Thompson, Author and Founder, Stratechery
10:00 a.m. – 10:15 a.m.
10:15 a.m. – 11:45 a.m. 
Big Data: Economic, Ownership, Legal, and Political Aspects
User data is arguably digital platforms’ most valuable asset. How data are used has profound economic, social, and political implications. What are these implications? Where along the value chain do data belong? Could reassigning ownership of the data and making it easily available to users promote competition and address privacy concerns?
Moderator: Ludwig Siegele, Technology Editor, The Economist
  • Julia Angwin, Senior Reporter, ProPublica
  • Dennis Carlton, David McDaniel Keller Professor of Economics, University of Chicago Booth School of Business
  • Richard Schmalensee, Howard W. Johnson Professor of Economics and Management and Dean Emeritus, MIT Sloan School of Management
  • Jonathan Taplin, Director Emeritus, Annenberg Innovation Lab, University of Southern California
  • Luigi Zingales, Robert C. McCormack Distinguished Service Professor of Entrepreneurship and Finance; Faculty Director, Stigler Center, University of Chicago Booth School of Business
11:45 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
12:00 p.m. – 1:15 p.m.
Lunch Keynote Makan Delrahim, Assistant Attorney General, Antitrust Division, US Department of Justice
1:15 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
1:30 p.m. – 3:15 p.m.
The Big Five and Political Power
The largest technology companies—Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, Apple—are active political players, using the traditional levers of lobbying and financing of research, think tanks, and political campaigns. However, it is their market power, and leverage over media outlets, that opens up new avenues for these platforms and foreign actors that exploit vulnerabilities in their systems to dominate and control the flow of political information among voters. How do they influence political discourse, the marketplace of ideas, and democracy more broadly?
Moderator: Matt Stoller, Fellow, Open Markets Insitute
  • Scott Cleland, President, Precursor LLC
  • Ellen Goodman, Professor of Law, Rutgers Law School and Co-director, Rutgers Institute for Information Policy & Law
  • Barry Lynn, Executive Director, Open Markets Institute
  • Guy Rolnik, Clinical Associate Professor of Strategic Management, University of Chicago Booth School of Business
3:15 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.
3:30 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Digital Platforms: Market Power and Market Failures Digital platforms (e.g. Facebook, Google, Twitter) rely on network effects to build vast ecosystems of users, advertisers and third-party developers, and to attain substantive market power. How should that market power be measured and what concerns does it raise for competition and entry? What are the market failures left unaddressed by these digital platforms and how should we expect them to govern their respective ecosystems? 
Moderator: Jesse Eisinger, Senior Reporter and Editor, ProPublica
  • Jay Pil Choi, University Distinguished Professor, Michigan State University
  • Andrei Hagiu, Visiting Associate Professor of Technological Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Strategic Management, MIT Sloan School of Management
  • Sarit Markovich, Clinical Associate Professor of Strategy and Associate Chair of the Strategy Department, Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management
  • Fiona Scott Morton, Theodore Nierenberg Professor of Economics, Yale University School of Management
  • Carl Shapiro, Professor of the Graduate School, Haas School of Business and Department of Economics, University of California at Berkeley
5:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.
5:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.
Reception and dinner
Dinner Keynote - Alvin Roth, Nobel Laureate and Craig and Susan McCaw Professor of Economics, Stanford University
Friday, April 20, 2018
8:00 a.m. – 8:40 a.m.
Breakfast Keynote - Mario Monti, President, Bocconi University; Former Prime Minister of Italy; Former EU Competition Commissioner
8:40 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.
Who’s Benefiting? Revisiting the Innovation and Start-Up EcosystemHow does the dominance of the digital platforms impact the startup ecosystem? As big digital players often scoop up startups or replicate startups’ ideas, what constitutes success for emerging startups? How does acquisition versus IPO serve competition and innovation? Is innovation concentrated mainly in the pre-acquisition phase? 

Moderator: Adam Lashinsky, Executive Editor, Fortune
  • Elvir Causevic, Managing Director and Co-Head, Tech+IP, Houlihan Lokey 
  • Matt Perault, Director, Public Policy, Facebook
  • Albert Wenger, Managing Partner, Union Square Ventures
  • Glen Weyl, Principal Researcher, Microsoft Research New England and Visiting Senior Research Scholar, Department of Economics and Law School, Yale University
10:00 a.m. – 10:15 a.m.
10:15 a.m. – 11:45 a.m.
Can Government Resist Corporate Influence?
The Big Five have met little government intervention as they have gained dominance and brought about market consolidation. Has government treated digital platforms differently than other corporations? Are digital platforms more politically influential than other big corporations and, if so, why?
Moderator: Rana Foroohar, Global Business Columnist and Associate Editor, Financial Timesand Global Economic Analyst, CNN
  • Alejandra Palacios, Commissioner and Chair, Mexico Federal Economic Competition Commission (COFECE)
  • Randal Picker, James Parker Hall Distinguished Service Professor of Law, University of Chicago Law School
  • Daniel Stevens, Executive Director, Campaign for Accountability, Google Transparency Project
  • Tim Wu, Isidor and Seville Sulzbacher Professor of Law, Columbia Law School
  • Luigi Zingales, Robert C. McCormack Distinguished Service Professor of Entrepreneurship and Finance; Faculty Director, Stigler Center, University of Chicago Booth School of Business
11:45 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Lunch Keynote - Jean Tirole, Nobel Laureate and Chairman, Toulouse School of Economics
1:00 p.m. – 1:15 p.m.
1:15 p.m. – 2:45 p.m.
The Amazon Phenomenon
Amazon has transformed e-commerce and now begins its foray into the physical world with its acquisition of Whole Foods. The giant e-tailer offers a quintessential case study in how digital platforms are reimagining traditional markets and impacting society at large. Who will be “Amazoned” next? What lessons can we learn from Amazon’s experience with antitrust? As Amazon looks to situate its second headquarters, some believe the bid is a race to the bottom. What is the anticipated net impact of hosting the headquarters on a winner city and state?

Moderator: David Dayen, Contributing Writer, The Intercept
  • Joshua Gans, Jeffrey S. Skoll Chair of Technical Innovation and Entrepreneurship and Professor of Strategic Management, Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto
  • Austan Goolsbee, Robert P. Gwinn Professor of Economics, University of Chicago Booth School of Business
  • Lina Khan, Director, Legal Policy, Open Markets Institute
  • Maurice Stucke, Professor of Law, University of Tennessee College of Law and Of Counsel, The Konkurrenz Group
  • Ben Thompson, Author and Founder, Stratechery
2:45 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.
3:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.
US vs EU: Antitrust, Data, and Privacy Policy
Questions about digital markets and competition have begun gaining prevalence and commanding more regulatory attention. While the EU has taken aggressive measures against the digital platforms, including a €2.4 billion fine on Google and introducing significant privacy laws (GDPR), regulators in the United States have demonstrated a more lenient approach. What are the strengths and weaknesses of the EU versus US policy choices? 

Moderator: John O'Sullivan, Economics Editor, The Economist
  • Ariel Ezrachi, Slaughter and May Professor of Competition Law and Director, Centre for Competition Law and Policy, University of Oxford
  • Justus Haucap, Director, Duesseldorf Institute for Competition Economics, Heinrich-Heine University of Duesseldorf
  • William Kovacic, Global Competition Professor and Director, Competition Law Center, George Washington University Law School
  • Gary Reback, Of Counsel, Carr & Ferrell LLP
  • Thomas Vinje, Partner and Chairman, Global Antitrust Group, Clifford Chance LLP
4:30 p.m. – 4:45 p.m.
Closing Remarks - Luigi Zingales, Faculty Director, Stigler Center, University of Chicago Booth School of Business

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Frontiers of Market Design at Cornell (joint with EC), June 22

Frontiers of Market Design

The first Frontiers of Market Design workshop will be held in Cornell University, Ithaca, NY on June 22, 2018 in conjunction with the 19th ACM Conference on Economics and Computation (EC).
Market design is a field of applied and theoretical research that sits comfortably on the intersection of economics and computer science. In recent decades, the theory and applications of market design have blossomed. In this workshop, we will focus on a set of promising, new applications of market design. In particular, we are interested in applications of market design which involve complex allocation constraints, vast datasets, and dynamic pricing issues. We also want to explore problems which, despite receiving ample theoretical attention, have not been implemented in practice. We welcome theoretical and empirical papers that deal with new domains of market design as well as papers that discuss practical aspects of market design.


  • Submission deadline: May 1, 2018 11:59pm PDT.
  • Notification: May 13, 2018

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Market design as a growing part of computer science

I'm encouraged to see this from Northwestern CS:

"In recent years many aspects of social engagement has shifted to what can be broadly thought of as online markets. These markets; which include eBay, Uber, Airbnb, Tinder, StubHub, Wikipedia, Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, etc.; are run by technology companies and are built by teams of software engineers. The science of designing and optimizing these online markets, however, is underdeveloped.  Designing a marketplace that works well is challenging because the behavior of participants in the market place depends on the design of the marketplace. ..."

Monday, April 16, 2018

Safe exchange zones

Marketplaces aren't just tools to bring potential transactors together, they can also seek to make transactions (physically) safe.  Criminals can lurk among Craigslist buyers and sellers, and so there's been a growth of "safe exchange zones".

See e.g. this recent story from New Jersey, where the police department set up a safe exchange zone following a robbery/murder:
"Passaic Mayor Hector Lora says that his town installed the zones inside and outside of the police station after a series of robberies and scams related to online sales.

“The biggest difference that it makes is that it provides a safe area for individuals to make these transactions and be able to make it back home,” Lora says.

“We have 24 hour surveillance, 24 hour staffing, and it's round the clock,” says Deputy Chief Christopher Storzillo.

"Lora says that he hopes that other towns follow suit and add their own safe exchange zones.

"But until other towns have these zones, officials urge anyone who is buying or selling items online to meet in a public, well-lit place and to call authorities if anything seems suspicious."

It turns out that safe exchange zones are a thing, here are some databases to help locate one near you:

Sunday, April 15, 2018

More Backpage (.com) news

From the Washington Post:
Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer pleads guilty in three states, agrees to testify against other website officials
"Carl Ferrer, the chief executive of whose name was conspicuously absent from an indictment of seven other Backpage officials unsealed Monday, has pleaded guilty in state courts in California and Texas and federal court in Arizona to charges of money laundering and conspiracy to facilitate prostitution. In addition, he agreed to testify against the men who co-founded Backpage with him, Michael Lacey and James Larkin, who remained in jail Thursday in Arizona on facilitating prostitution charges.
Backpage, in addition to hosting thinly veiled ads for prostitution since 2004, was accused of hosting child sex trafficking ads on its site and even assisting advertisers in wording their copy so they didn’t overtly declare that sex was for sale, federal investigators allege. In a remarkable three-paragraph admission in his federal plea agreement, Ferrer wrote that “I conspired with other Backpage principals … to find ways to knowingly facilitate the state-law prostitution crimes being committed by Backpage’s customers.
"Ferrer’s sudden capitulation launched a wild seven days for Backpage. A day after Ferrer’s first secret plea, the federal government arrested seven of Ferrer’s former colleagues, including Lacey and Larkin, and shut down Backpage’s websites in the U.S. and around the world. ...
"Then on Wednesday, President Trump signed into law “FOSTA,” the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act, a bill inspired by the stories of children being prostituted on Backpage..."
And here's a story from Quartz that follows the work of economists researching the (not all bad) effects of internet marketplaces for prostitution.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Are financial markets too fast? A discussion of high speed trading (with Eric Budish)

"On this episode of The Big Question, Chicago Booth Review's Hal Weitzman talks with Chicago Booth professor of economics Eric Budish, Chicago Trading Company's Steve Crutchfield, and former Commodity Futures Trading Commission commissioner Sharon Bowen about how speed affects financial markets and what, if anything, we should do about it."

Eric points out that competition among exchanges has worked well in driving down trading fees, and poorly in selling access--"co-location"--since each exchange has a monopoly on selling speedy access to its data.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Market design conference at Columbia

Friday, April 13, 2018 - Saturday, April 14, 2018

April 13, 2018

8:00-8:25 Breakfast & Registration
8:25-8:30 Introduction by Yeon-Koo Che (Columbia University)
Session 1:
Chair: Guillaume Haeringer (Baruch College)
8:30-9:30  Yusuke Narita (Yale University), “Regression Discontinuity Design Meets Market Design”
10:30-10:45 Coffee Break
Session 2:
Chair: Jay Sethuraman (Columbia University)
10:45-11:45 Ran Shorrer (Penn State University), “Need vs. Merit: The Large Core of College Admissions Markets,” (joint with Avinatan Hassidim, Assaf Romm).
12:45-1:45 Lunch
Session 3:
Chair: José Montiel Olea (Columbia University)
1:45-2:45 Mohammad Akbarpour (Stanford University), “Credible Mechanisms,” (joint with Shengwu Li).
2:45-3:45 Nicole Immorlica (Microsoft Research),  “Optimal Data Acquisition for Statistical Estimation,” (joint with Yiling Chen, Brendan Lucier, Vasilis Syrgkanis, Juba Ziani).
3:45-4:00 Coffee Break
Session 4:
Chair: Yash Kanoria (Columbia University)
4:00-5:00 Alfred Galichon (New York University), “A Model of Decentralized Matching without Transfers,” (joint with Yu-Wei Hsieh).
5:00-6:00 Josh Mollner (Northwestern University), “Lottery Equilibrium,” (joint with Glen Weyl).
6:30 Dinner (off campus)

April 14, 2018

8:00-8:30 Breakfast & Registration
Session 1: 
Chair: Xiaosheng Mu (Harvard University)
8:30-9:30 Juan Carlos Carbajal (University of New South Wales), “Selling Mechanisms for a Financially Constrained Buyer,” (joint with Ahuva Mu’alem).
9:30-10:30 Ben Brooks (University of Chicago) “Optimal Auction Design with Common Values: An Informationally Robust Approach,” (joint with Songzi Du).
10:30-10:45 Coffee Break
Session 2:
Chair: Qingmin Liu (Columbia University)
10:45-11:45 Philipp Strack (Berkeley),  “A Theory of Auctions with Endogenous Valuations,” (joint with Alex Gershkov, Benny Moldovanu).
11:45-12:45 Jacob Leshno (Columbia University),  “Monopoly without a Monopolist: An Economic Analysis of the Bitcoin Payment System,” (joint with Gur Huberman, Ciamac C. Moallemi).

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Re-transplanting an organ that survives its recipient

From UCLA (where Dr. Jeff Veale is innovating):
‘Re-gifting’ of previously transplanted kidneys extends life for new recipients
Approach could help people who might not otherwise receive a transplant

"Typically, previously transplanted kidneys are lost to future use when the first recipient dies. But Dr. Jeffrey Veale, a transplant surgeon at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center who has performed the rare surgery three times, maintains that re-donating previously transplanted kidneys should become standard practice.
"Veale sums up the re-gift this way: One kidney helped three people live.

“In the United States about 25 percent of those who receive a donated kidney die while their kidney transplant is still functional,” said Veale, director of the UCLA Kidney Exchange Program. “Re-gifting that viable organ to another patient on the waiting list gives new hope to patients who otherwise may not be considered for a transplant.”

With a re-gifted kidney, people who had been reliant on dialysis for years could live normal lives, spending time with their loved ones, traveling or doing anything else that people who aren’t on dialysis may take for granted.

Each year in the U.S., less than 20 percent of patients on the United Network for Organ Sharing kidney transplant waiting list will receive a transplant, and 13 people on that list die each day. If transplanting kidneys a second time were standard practice, it would open up a currently unutilized pool of donors."

Wednesday, April 11, 2018, seized by the FBI and indicted by the Department of Justice

The latest development in the legal battle of, an online marketplace for sex and, apparently, trafficking in women and children, has resulted in the closing of the site.

On April 6 2018 the content of the site was replaced with a notice beginning “ and affiliated websites have been seized as part of an enforcement action by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Postal Service Inspection Service, and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division, with analytical assistance from the Joint Regional Intelligence Center.” 
The accompanying indictment ( )suggests that the proprietors of may have helped write the site’s content, and thus not be protected by the 1996 Communications Decency Act. 

In a parallel development, in March (of 2018) the Senate passed (by a vote of 97 to 2) and forwarded to the President for signature the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017, as previously passed by the House of Representatives. It amends the Communications Act of 1934, “to  clarify  that  section  230  of  such  Act  does  not  prohibit  the  enforcement  against providers and users of interactive computer services of Federal and State criminal and civil law relating to sexual exploitation of  children  or  sex  trafficking…” .  

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Vanderbilt market design conference

Vandebilt hosted a market design conference this past weekend:
Vanderbilt Market Design Conference April 7-8, 2018

Saturday, April 7
Opening Remarks 8:15-8:30 am. John Weymark (Vanderbilt University)
Session 1 8:30 - 10:00 am. Chair: Myrna Wooders (Vanderbilt University)
Coffee Break 10:00 - 10:20 am
Session 2 10:20 - 11:50 am. Chair: Greg Leo (Vanderbilt University)
Lunch 11:50 am - 1:10 pm
Session 3 1:10 - 3:25 pm. Chair: Eun Jeong Heo (Vanderbilt University)
Coffee Break 3:25 - 3:45 pm
Session 4 3:45 - 5:15 pm. Chair: Antonio Nicolo (University of Padova and University of Manchester)

Sunday, April 8
Session 5 8:30 - 10:00 am. Chair: Olivier Tercieux (Paris School of Economics)
Coffee Break 10:00 - 10:20 am
Session 6 10:20 - 11:50 am. Chair: Tommy Andersson (Lund University)
  • "Fair Matching under Constraints," Yuichiro Kamada (University of California, Berkeley) and Fuhito Kojima* (Stanford University)
  • "Effcient and Incentive-Compatible Liver Exchange," Haluk Ergin (University of California, Berkeley), Tayfun Sonmez (Boston College), and M. Utku Unver* (Boston College)