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2007年10月15日 星期一

mechanism design theory

3 Americans Win Nobel in Economics

Mike Left, Kamil Krazaczynski/European Pressphoto Agency; Derer/Associated Press; Craig Lassig/European Pressphoto Agency

From left, Roger B. Myerson, Eric S. Maskin and Leonid Hurwicz.


Published: October 15, 2007

The Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science was awarded to three American economists today for creating and developing a sophisticated explanation of the interaction among individuals, markets and institutions.

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Eric Miller/Reuters

Leonid Hurwicz, a professor emeritus at the University of Minnesota, talked to his brother after learning that he and two other economists had won a Nobel Prize.

Their work, called mechanism design theory, has influenced thinking on a wide range of problems in economics and political science, from the design of government bond auctions to patent systems to voting procedures.

Leonid Hurwicz, 90, a professor emeritus at the University of Minnesota, initiated the field of mechanism design theory, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said in the award citation. His work was further developed by two 56-year-old economists who are sharing the prize — Roger B. Myerson, a professor at the University of Chicago, and Eric S. Maskin, a professor at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J.

Mr. Hurwicz, who was born in Moscow, started his work in the postwar years at a time when economists and others were heatedly debating whether socialist reforms were possible without a loss of economic efficiency. Those debates tended to be deeply ideological.

Mr. Hurwicz was a pioneer in trying a more rigorous, mathematical analysis to those kinds of issues. Last year, in a lecture last year to honor Mr. Hurwicz, Mr. Myerson explained, “Over many years and decades, Leo Hurwicz has worked to show how mathematical economic models can provide a general framework for analyzing different economics institutions, like those of capitalism and socialism, as mechanisms for coordinating the individuals of society.”

The field of mechanism design theory strives to take into account the realities of economic life systematically. Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” is a powerful metaphor that describes how the market, in theory, will always efficiently allocate scarce resources. Yet real-world conditions tend to complicate things. Competition is not completely free, consumers are not perfectly informed, optimizing private production and consumption may have social costs, and institutions can strongly shape economic bargaining.

The work begun by Mr. Hurwicz, and advanced by Mr. Maskin and Mr. Myerson, gave economists and policy makers new intellectual tools to address questions like those listed in the academy’s citation: “How well do different such institutions, or allocation mechanisms, perform? What is the optimal mechanism to reach a certain goal, such as social welfare or private profit? Is government regulation called for, and if so, how is it best designed?”

The institutional focus of this year’s laureates, economists say, is an important contribution. “Economists’ most lasting influence comes from the design of institutions,” said Robert J. Shiller, a professor of economics at Yale University. “It is these mechanisms we use day to day that really matter to our lives.”

The three economists will share the prize money, 10 million Swedish kronor, or about $1.56 million. The Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science was not one of the five original prizes — physics, chemistry, medicine, literature and peace — that Alfred Nobel specified in his will, and were first awarded in 1901. The first economics prize was awarded in 1969.


"諾貝爾經濟學獎十五日揭曉,頒給三位美國經濟學家赫維茲、馬斯金以及麥爾森,用以表彰他們為「機制設計理論」(mechanism design theory)奠基的貢獻。「機制設計理論」處理的是市場在何種情況下運作最有效率的問題。

機制設計理論探討不同的機構在分配資源時,誰比較吃香,以及政府是否有必要介入。這套理論在比較經濟學與政治學中扮演核心的角色。

瑞典皇家科學院在頌詞中指出,機制設計理論由赫維茲首創,後由馬斯金和麥爾森發揚光大,在提升世人對最佳分配機制的認識方面,貢獻良多。

頌詞指出,這套理論讓經濟學家、政府與企業「分辨市場在何種情況下運作良好,又在何種情況下運作不良」,並有助於「找出有效率的交易機制、管理方案以及投票程序」。

機制設計理論應用廣泛,常用於勞資協商、課稅,以及(政府公債等資產的)標售系統的設計。

此理論也有助於解釋經濟交易中涉及的決策程序,例如,什麼樣的保單設計可提供最佳的保障,同時又不會遭到濫用。

三位經濟學家將平分一千萬瑞典克朗(約台幣五千萬元)的獎金,另獲頒獎牌及證書。頒獎典禮訂於十二月十日舉行。

赫維茲是在莫斯科出生的美國公民,今年高齡九十,成為史上最年長的諾貝爾獎得主。他是明尼蘇達大學經濟學榮譽教授。在紐約市土生土長的馬斯金現年五十六歲,現任普林斯頓高等研究院教授。五十六歲的麥爾森是波士頓人,目前擔任芝加哥大學教授。

俄國裔的赫維茲原以為自己太老,不可能獲獎。十五日一早接到祝賀的電話時,他說:「這實在出乎我的意料之外。許多次別人說我在最後決選名單上,但久而久之,什麼也沒發生。我沒料到會獲得這項殊榮,因為熟悉我著作的人,都一一過世了。」

馬斯金表示,很高興赫維茲能得獎。他說:「多年來,我們都期盼赫維茲獲獎。他已九十高齡了,我們覺得時間緊迫。能夠與他和麥爾森共同獲獎,我實在萬分榮幸。」"【聯合報╱編譯湯淑君.....


今年的諾貝爾經濟學獎頒給了貢獻於「機制設計理論」(Mechanism Design Theory)的赫維茲、馬斯金及麥爾森三人。事實上,多年來赫維茲等人一直都有得獎呼聲,原因在於「機制設計理論」已被廣泛應用在很多經濟活動與公共決策上。

所謂「機制設計理論」,簡單地說,就是在探討最佳的資源分配、決策與制度,主要是以達到社會和個人最大化利益為考量而建立的制度與規範,可以應用在保險與信用市場、以及拍賣、工資、稅收等問題,乃至政治領域。

「機制設計理論」可說是綜合運用了賽局、社會選擇等理論,多年來,諾貝爾經濟學獎先後頒給過研究社會選擇理論與福利經濟學的阿羅與森,頒給過探討公共經濟 學的布坎南,頒給過發展非合作賽局理論的塞爾滕、海薩尼與納許,頒給過貢獻於資訊不對稱問題的莫里斯與維克瑞,如今赫維茲、馬斯金及麥爾森三人得獎,並不 令人意外。......



買賣雙方有時會因為討價還價過於激烈而導致交易破局。各方高度期待的共同計畫有時無法實現,肇因於受益的各方對於如何分攤成本無法達成共識。何種交易機制能夠實現最大利益?哪種集體決策過程能夠達成實踐理想的共同計畫,避免花費在不理想的共同計畫上面?

由赫維茲發明,馬斯金和麥爾森發揚光大的「機制設計理論」,提供有關上述問題的解答,三人因此共同榮獲本屆諾貝爾經濟學獎。依照中研院院士、金管會主委胡 勝正的說法,這是一套「經濟憲法」,主要是用來改正真實世界中資訊不對稱的現況,可以應用於制定公共經濟政策和投票過程分析。

諾貝爾委員會指出,在「機制設計理論」問世前,個體經濟對資源分配機制的分析絕大部分是市場分析。委員會指出,亞當斯密的古典比喻「看不見的手」干預市場 理論,諸如自由競爭和資訊完全流通等前提太過理想,因為實際上市場競爭並非完全自由公平,消費者也沒有獲得完整的資訊來作判斷。

「機制設計理論」提出修正,在不完美的條件下追求可達到的最有效率狀況。例如,買賣雙方同時遞交標單的拍賣,通常是交易私人物品的最佳機制。從勞資爭議的協商到政府標售公債,「機制設計理論」協助政府和企業即使在條件欠佳時,對於市場如何運作,仍有更佳的了解。

瑞典銀行首席經濟學家佛洛雷特表示,「機制設計理論」和「賽局理論」的大方向一致,都是追求如何做出最佳判斷,決策時顯然需要將資訊列入考量。佛洛雷特說,「機制設計理論」現在愈來愈受歡迎,經濟學研討會議普遍都會聽取決策制定的過程。



曾在美國普渡大學任教近卅年的金管會主委胡勝正昨天表示,赫維茲等提出的「機制設計理論」,主要是用來修正亞當斯密的「看不見的手」(Invisible Hand)理想市場理論。

赫維玆在廿多年前曾應中央研究院邀請來台灣演講,講題就是他著名的「為機制設計理論奠定基礎」,談的是政府的規則應如何進行最佳設計。

胡勝正表示,出生於俄羅斯莫斯科的赫維茲,出道以來一直在明尼蘇達大學任教,作育英才無數,明尼蘇達經濟學系能夠名列全美前十大名校,他居功厥偉。高齡九 十的赫維茲是以數理經濟見長,本身也相當熱中政治,曾任明尼蘇達州民主黨州委員會主席,因此「機制設計理論」可具體應用在公共政策。

「機制設計理論」主要是由赫維茲率先倡議,馬斯金與麥爾森進一步發展,胡勝正說,國內學者受教三位大師的人數不多,只有台大經濟系副教授黃貞穎是馬斯金在哈佛大學時期的學生。央行總裁彭淮南和台經院院長洪德生,則是明大的高材生。

馬斯金與麥爾森是哈佛應用數學系的同班同學,畢業之後,更一起前往英國劍橋大學攻讀碩士,與赫維茲一樣,三人都是以數理見長;胡勝正表示,馬斯金是在工業組織任職,理論重點在資訊不對稱等產業經濟領域,而麥爾森也是同屬產業經濟領域。



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Americans Win Nobel Prize in Economics
By DARREN MCDERMOTT
October 15, 2007 9:24 p.m.; Page A3

Three American researchers won the Nobel Prize in economics for theoretical work into ways to make interactions between buyers and sellers with private information more efficient. Their research has influenced the design of auctions for everything from Treasury bonds to items on eBay.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science to Leonid Hurwicz, 90 years old, a retired professor at the University of Minnesota, who told reporters he thought his chances at the honor had faded; Eric S. Maskin, 56, of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J.; and Roger B. Myerson, 56, of the University of Chicago.

"Today's award is for deep conceptual theory. It's not highly practical in itself, but it builds the foundation for so much," said Al Roth, a Harvard University economist who has built on the trio's work to construct systems that allocate donated kidneys among those who need transplants and match medical students to residency programs.

Regarded as the father of the field known as "mechanism design theory," Mr. Hurwicz tackled a problem that the field of economics didn't traditionally consider: When markets don't allocate resources efficiently, or at all, what sort of allocation mechanisms can be created that will do so?

In textbooks, Adam Smith's invisible hand matches buyers with sellers equally. A million potato farmers will find a million potato eaters and will sell their goods for the maximum that buyers are willing to pay. In the real world, buyers and sellers can't find each other, or one buyer tries to corner the market, or the government grows the potatoes. Mechanism design theory addresses what happens when buyers and sellers keep private information about how they value a good or service.

Mr. Hurwicz, born in Moscow, began developing theories that show when markets aren't capable of operating efficiently -- and to measure what type of mechanism would work best. "Leo Hurwicz made the breakthrough that the key part of the problem is that people don't have incentives to share information" about the price at which they are willing to buy or sell, said Mr. Myerson, who studied Mr. Hurwicz's work as a Harvard graduate student.

Messrs. Myerson and Maskin built on Mr. Hurwicz's work by finding a way to mathematically represent certain types of allocation mechanisms. That allows economists to easily compare different models for selling goods. "It becomes a graduate-student-level problem," said Mr. Myerson.
[Photo]
Leonid Hurwicz yesterday after receiving the news that he had won a Nobel Prize.

Mechanism design theory is critical to building and to successfully bidding in auctions. In the 1990s, the Federal Communications Commission hired two Stanford University experts in the field to consult on revamping its method of auctioning off radio spectrum. "You wouldn't really say that the material has helped with the design of these things, but it's helped in the way of thinking through the issues," said Paul Klemperer, an economist at the University of Oxford who advised the British government on its sale of third-generation wireless spectrum.

Jeffrey Lacker, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, said mechanism design theory offers insight into what happened in financial markets this summer. It "takes very seriously the informational constraints that people operate under," he said. The way that investors responded during the crisis suggests that a shortage of information was a bigger problem for the market than a lack of liquidity. That conclusion is "consistent with the lack of use we've seen in the discount window," the Fed's program for lending directly to banks.

"I supported the discount-rate reduction, and I think it was the right thing to do," Mr. Lacker said. However, "if liquidity was the problem, we would have seen more use of the discount window."

"Mechanism design formalizes ways of thinking about how a social planner, manager or parent can set up rules so that all parties involved have the incentives to act in the way that the planner/manager/parent prefers," economist and author Steven Levitt said on his Freakonomics blog.

The three winners will share $1.5 million.

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