Saturday, October 22, 2016

Airbnb faces regulatory headwinds in NY

The FT has the story:
Airbnb faces fight for survival in New York City
Governor set to sign legislation likely to end start-up’s business in Big Apple

"The online service, which connects owners of homes and flats with tourists and other renters in cities around the world, has often clashed with regulators which accuse the company of facilitating illegal hotel businesses and reducing affordable housing stock.

In New York, hotel unions and New York City officials have been particularly vociferous on the company’s failure to comply with a 2010 accommodation law that banned short-term rentals in Manhattan, but which is rarely enforced.

On Wednesday, Airbnb said that it wanted to pay taxes in New York, estimating that it could generate about $90m a year in the state under its new registration scheme. The company also proposed a new “three strikes” rule that would permanently ban hosts who broke the 2010 law more than three times.

The company has already reached agreements on collecting and remitting taxes with many other cities, including Paris, its largest market. In New York City, Airbnb hosts 46,000 flats and homes.

Like other such Silicon Valley start-ups that have disrupted traditional business models, Airbnb has been forced, often through confrontation, to become more responsive to local regulators and interest groups as it expands."

And, after the governor signed the bill,
Airbnb Sues Over New Law Regulating New York Rentals
"Hours after Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York signed a bill that would impose steep fines on Airbnb hosts who break local housing regulations, Airbnb filed a federal lawsuit contending the new law would cause it “irreparable harm.”

The heightened battle in New York follows lawsuits that Airbnb has filed against its hometown San Francisco and in Santa Monica, Calif., which have both moved to fine the company for illegal listings.

The company, which operates in a regulatory gray area around the globe, is also fighting tough battles in Amsterdam and Barcelona, Spain, which penalizes hosts who list illegal rentals, and in Berlin, which has banned most short-term rentals."

Soros on refugee resettlement as a matching problem

 George Soros on refugees, earlier this summer:
This is Europe’s Last Chance to Fix Its Refugee Policy
Foreign Policy Magazine, Jul 19, 2016

"Fifth, once refugees have been recognized, there needs to be a mechanism for relocating them within Europe in an agreed way. It will be crucial for the EU to fundamentally rethink the implementation of its stillborn resettlement and relocation programs; a tentative step in this direction was taken last week in new proposals put forth by the European Commission. The union cannot coerce either member states or refugees to participate in these programs. They must be voluntary; a matching scheme could elicit preferences from both refugees and receiving communities so that people end up where they want to be and where they are welcome. EASO has begun to develop such a matching scheme."

A somewhat shorter summary of his whole argument is here:
Saving Refugees to Save Europe

Friday, October 21, 2016

China, transplants, and executed prisoners: is the situation getting clearer?

A recent meeting in China cautiously suggests that there may be some concrete change in the practice of transplanting organs from executed prisoners:
Doctors hail China’s pledge to stop harvesting inmate organs

"Doctors from the World Health Organization and the Montreal-based Transplantation Society who were invited to the conference by China praised Chinese officials for reforms they have made in the transplant system, including a ban put in place last year on using organs from executed inmates.

"Doubts persist that China is accurately reporting figures or meeting its pledge given its severe shortage of organ donors and China’s long-standing black-market organ trade. By its own figures, China has one of the lowest rates of organ donation in the world, and even the system’s advocates say it needs hundreds of additional hospitals and doctors.

"While China suppresses most discussions about human rights, government officials and state media have publicly talked about their commitment to ending a practice opposed by doctors and human rights groups due to fears that it promotes executions and coercion.
"Others offered praise for Chinese officials, but stopped short of saying whether they could confirm China had stopped using executed inmates’ organs.

“It’s not a matter for us to prove to you that it’s zero,” said Dr. Francis Delmonico, a longtime surgeon and a professor at Harvard Medical School. “It’s a matter for the government to fulfill what is the law, just as it is in the other countries of the world that we go to.”

"China is believed to perform more executions than any other country, though the government does not disclose how many.

"The former vice minister of health, Dr. Huang Jiefu, publicly acknowledged in 2005 that China harvested executed inmates’ organs for transplant, and a paper he coauthored six years later reported that as many as 90 percent of Chinese transplant surgeries using organs from dead people came from those put to death.

"Huang has also responded to a report earlier this year that a Canadian patient apparently received a kidney from an executed inmate by announcing that the doctor and the hospital in question were suspended from performing more transplants."

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Normative Ethics and Welfare Economics at HBS, and Behavioral Ethics, also at HBS (at the same time:)

There are two (competing) conferences on ethics at Harvard this weekend, one on Friday and Saturday and the other on Friday, both at HBS.

I'll be speaking at this one:

2016 Normative Ethics and Welfare Economics Conference
October 21-22, Harvard Business School
Organizers: Itai Sher and Matt Weinzierl

All sessions will take place in the Chao Centerroom 340
Transportation to the HBS campus from the Hyatt Regency Cambridge Hotel will be provided.
Oct 21

A Harvard University shuttle bus will depart the Hyatt at 8:00 am




Opening Remarks


Population Ethics

Partha Dasgupta and Johann Frick
Discussant: Glen Weyl

Birth and Death
Socially Embedded Preferences, Environmental Externalities, and Reproductive Rights



Reasons and Preferences

Justin Snedegar and Itai Sher
Discussant: Caspar Hare

Overlapping Reasons

Comparative Value and the Weight of Reasons



Public Reason

Matt Weinzierl and Sean Ingham
Discussant: Lucas Stanczyk

A Dilemma for Theories of Public Reason
A Welfarist Role for Nonwelfarist Rules: An Example with Envy



Forbidden Transactions

Michael Sandel and Al Roth
Discussant: Stefanie Stantcheva



Dinner for Speakers & Discussants

Location TBA

Transportation will be provided
Oct 22

A Harvard University shuttle bus will depart the Hyatt at 8:00 am



Business Ethics




Behavioral Economics and Welfare Economics

John Doris, Julia Haas, and Dan Benjamin
Discussant: Ben Lockwood

Moral Psychonomics
Reconsidering Risk Aversion


1:30 - 3:00


Matthew Adler and Hilary Greaves
Discussant: Jerry Green

Justice, Claims and Prioritarianism: Room for Desert?



Closing Panel

Marc Fleurbaey, Dan Hausman, Greg Mankiw, Tim Scanlon
Moderator: Nathan Hendren


It turns out that there is a lot of interest in ethics at Harvard, and so there is another ethics conference at the same time, also meeting at HBS:

Symposium - "Behavioral Ethics: Philosophical and Psychological Perspectives" Featuring Peter Singer


Friday, October 21, 2016 (All day)

See also: Ethics


Spangler Auditorium, Harvard Business School

Organizers: Max Bazerman and Joshua Greene
Sponsors: Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, Harvard Business School, Center for Public Leadership at Harvard Kennedy School
This symposium will integrate psychology and philosophy to explore a goal state for ethical behavior, why we fail to achieve that goal state, and what society can do create more ethical behavior.
Event Participant Bios

9:30 a.m. - 10:00 a.m.
Danielle Allen and Max Bazerman

10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.         
What does the greatest good look like in contemporary society?
Peter Singer, "What is the Most Good We Can Do?"
Joshua Greene, TBD
Steven Pinker, “Measuring and Defining Progress”

12:00 p.m. - 1:00 p.m.           
Lunch Break

1:15 p.m. - 2:45 p.m.             
Why don’t we get there?
Mahzarin Banaji, "The Difficulty with Discretion"
Fiery Cushman, “Is Non-Consequentialism a Feature or a Bug?”
Michael Norton, "Spreading the Wealth (and Health): Evidence for a Universal Desire for Greater Equality"
3:00 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.
What can be done to change behavior (nudging and beyond)?
Francesca Gino, “To Do or Not To Do: Motivating Ethical Behavior”
Iris Bohnet, "Gender Equality by Design"
Max Bazerman, "Prescriptions for Creating Greater Good"

4:30 p.m. - 4:45 p.m.             
Closing Statement
Max Bazerman

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Foreign students recruited to Canadian Universities

Inside Higher Ed reports on concerns that universities' eagerness for high tuition payments is leading to unqualified students are being recruited:
Corruption in Higher Ed: Canada in the Crosshairs
It is overwhelmingly evident that there is a remarkable and callous disregard for academic ethics and standards in a scramble by Canadian universities to sign up foreign students.

"It is overwhelmingly evident that in the last two decades we have witnessed first-hand a remarkable and callous disregard for academic ethics and standards in a scramble by Canadian universities and colleges to sign up foreign students, who represent tens of millions of dollars to their bottom lines.
We have been in a school auditorium in China and listened to the school owner tell prospective parents that the Grade 12 marks from the Canadian provincial school board program can be manipulated to secure admission for their children into Canadian universities. This, while the Canadian teachers sat oblivious to the presentation in Chinese.
In hundreds of our own interaction with students who completed the Canadian provincial school board’s curriculum in China and who achieved grades of 70% and higher in their English class have been unable to achieve even a basic level of English literacy in the written tests we have administered.   But when the largest country of origin for incoming international students and revenue is China - the Canadian universities admitting these students salivate over the dollars and focus less on due diligence.
We were once asked by a university on Canada’s west coast to review 200 applications from Saudi Arabia, in order to identify the two or three Saudi students who were actually eligible for conditional admission to that university's undergraduate engineering program. But the proposal was scuttled by the university's ESL department that wanted all 200 to enroll in its language courses. It insisted on and managed conditional admissions for all 200. It’s common at Canadian universities for the ESL program “tail” to wag the campus “dog” when it comes to admissions. In fact, recent Canadian government regulations have been proposed to crack down on this practice as it is an affront to academic integrity."

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Organ donation rates in Canada

"Despite the progress, Canada lags behind "top-tier" countries such as the U.S. and Spain, where deceased donation rates exceed 30 donors per million population. Canada's rate currently stands at 18.2 donors per million population, up from 14.1 for that measure in 2006.

Spain fostered a culture of donation over three decades and Canada is now embarking on creating one, said Dr. Peter Nickerson, vice-dean of research at the University of Manitoba and a medical adviser to CBS.

About 21 per cent of donations come after cardiac death, said Kimberly Young, director of donation and transplantation at CBS. Before those programs were implemented, most deceased organ donations occurred after catastrophic brain injury. Now organs can be donated after the heart stops.

Young also acknowledged the hundreds of Canadians who've chosen to become living donors, many without ever knowing the recipient.

The living donation rate hasn't increased in the past decade, Young said. One of the reasons it hasn't decreased, as in some countries, is due to the national paired kidney donation program. It pairs compatible donors, including those in different parts of the country. Doctors consider kidney donations the best treatment for end-stage kidney disease.

Lung transplants are in the top tier of comparable wealthy countries, thanks to pioneering research at lung retrieval centres such as Toronto General Hospital, Nickerson said. Likewise, liver donation rates are high. Heart access is relatively equal, he said.

There have also been significant improvements in access to transplants among those who have the hardest time finding a donor match because of a highly sensitive immune system. "

Monday, October 17, 2016

Who Gets What and Why, in Korean

Here is the Korean translation of my book Who Gets What and Why:
Who Gets What-and Why in Korean
Eun Jeong Heo tells me that the title in Korean is "Matching: a strong drive to uncover hidden markets"

Eun Jeong points me to these two URL's where you can buy the book:

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Two papers on repugnance and payments for body parts

Here's an NBER paper by Nicola Lacetera, which includes this in the acknowledgments: "I dedicate this paper to the memory of my friend Julia Fletcher, whose life could have been longer if a bone marrow match were found for her."

Incentives and Ethics in the Economics of Body Parts

Nicola Lacetera

NBER Working Paper No. 22673
Issued in September 2016
NBER Program(s):   HE      PE 

Research shows that properly devised economic incentives increase the supply of blood without hampering its safety; similar effects may be expected also for other body parts such as bone marrow and organs. These positive effects alone, however, do not necessarily justify the introduction of payments for supplying body parts; these activities concern contested commodities or repugnant transactions, i.e. societies may want to prevent certain ways to regulate a transaction even if they increased supply, because of ethical concerns. When transactions concern contested commodities, therefore, societies often face trade-offs between the efficiency-enhancing effects of trades mediated by a monetary price, and the moral opposition to the provision of these payments. In this essay, I first describe and discuss the current debate on the role of moral repugnance in controversial markets, with a focus on markets for organs, tissues, blood and plasma. I then report on recent studies focused on understanding the trade-offs that individuals face when forming their opinions about how a society should organize certain transactions.


And here's another, by Julio J. Elias, Nicola Lacetera, and Mario Macis

Efficiency-Morality Trade-Offs in Repugnant Transactions: A Choice Experiment

Julio J. EliasNicola LaceteraMario Macis

NBER Working Paper No. 22632
Issued in September 2016
NBER Program(s):   HE   LE   PE 
Societies prohibit many transactions considered morally repugnant, although potentially efficiency-enhancing. We conducted an online choice experiment to characterize preferences for the morality and efficiency of payments to kidney donors. Preferences were heterogeneous, ranging from deontological to strongly consequentialist; the median respondent would support payments by a public agency if they increased the annual kidney supply by six percentage points, and private transactions for a thirty percentage-point increase. Fairness concerns drive this difference. Our findings suggest that cost-benefit considerations affect the acceptance of morally controversial transactions, and imply that trial studies of the effects of payments would inform the public debate.