peteg's blog - noise - books - 2016 09 04 FismanSullivan TheInnerLivesOfMarkets

Ray Fisman and Tim Sullivan: The Inner Lives of Markets: How People Shape Them — And They Shape Us.

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Kindle. A pointer from Noah Smith at Bloomberg. Contrary to his brief opinion, this book is quite thin and Roth said most of it (and more) better, earlier, etc.. Fisman and Sullivan throw around many words and concepts without properly defining them (even informally) and engage in a bit too much deification for comfort. (Look, I'm as much of a fan of Kenneth Arrow as anyone, but John Quiggin, for instance, has banged on long enough about the limits of the standard equilibrium models that I found the discussion in this book to be almost misleading. I would dearly like to read a pop-sci account of those things and what has happened since 1954.)

Most annoying is the flabby prose, which is sometimes so repeatedly repetitious that it feels like the authors hope to persuade the reader through percussive (concussive) repetitions and not argumentation. (Yes, these guys were aiming at Freakonomics... and missed.) I started with some hope that they would unpack the feedback effects between markets and society (coarsely put, people become more calculating and often cynical) but that final chapter is one of the weakest in the book.

They did dig up some good pointers into the auction theory literature though:

  • Lawrence M. Ausubel and Paul Milgrom: The Lovely but Lonely Vickrey Auction, in Combinatorial Auctions, eds. P. Cranton, Y. Shoham, and R. Steinberg (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2006).
  • Michael H. Rothkopf, Thirteen Reasons Why the Vickrey-Clarke-Groves Process Is Not Practical, Operations Research 55, no. 2 (2007).

Athan at Amazon. Jill at goodreads.