Thursday, August 2, 2012

Mechanism design, badminton, and job training

Seems to me that the Olympics has it all wrong when it disqualifies badminton players for optimizing relative to the problem that has been handed to them. To my mind, when agents do things you do not want them to do but are optimizing relative to the mechanism they face, the fault lies with the mechanism designer, not the agents.

That's true in badminton just as it is in job training, when local offices of the Workforce Investment Act cream-skim the best among their applicants because their performance is judged based on post-program employment rates.

The cheap talkers are already on the case, suggesting better mechanisms.

Hat tip: ASAK

Addendum: Crooked Timber on "rule of law fetishists". CT has a point in the sense that it is often more efficient to rely on informal norms than on formal law, particularly around the edges. But in that case, the correct sanctions are social, not official.

Hat tip: Scott

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