Saturday, October 27, 2007

"Mechanism design" is not about making clocks

I was waiting for the Economist to put in its obligatory piece on the latest Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics. (The qualifier "Memorial" is there to pay tribute to the hardcore sciences of physiology, chemistry, and physics, which are the original Nobel Prizes.) At last I have something to free-ride on.

In my line of work "incentive compatibility" crops up frequently - it means that we should expect an agent to behave consistent with her incentives. Incentive compatibility is one of the keystones of mechanism design. It may sound trivial, but responses to incentives are naively ignored, say, in government policy. If for instance government is so distressed by rampant smuggling, perhaps in ought to wonder whether all those import restrictions actually spawned incentives for evasion (i.e. by creating a premium of the domestic price over the world price). Or that tax exemptions on dependents is not going to help curb the fertility rate. Examples can be multiplied. And don't get me started over the pardon of former President Estrada.

1 comment:

Amadeo said...

Roel, glad to know you are back to more active blogging. Don’t worry you made the right choice.

Needless as a reminder, effective multi-tasking is also a desirable and enviable skill.

Personally, would be glad to know that you also have gotten back to teaching. Sorry to say that we need your type of competition to countermand what we are reading and hearing about what is going on in academia. Included in this unhappy mix would be the likes of that noted sociologist, Walden Bello, whose many incursions into Economics, global economics especially, partake of nirvana-inspired and mythic proportions. The country needs more reality-based economics.