William Thomson, University of Rochester

How to Divide When There Isn’t Enough: From Aristotle, the Talmud, and Maimonides to the Axiomatics of Resource Allocation

The Spring 2021 FC Talks series is dedicated to our late colleague, Patrick Harless. Patrick Harless was an economist who joined the Freedom Center in 2018. He was a dedicated educator who, although his work was highly technical, was able to teach economic topics all levels of students. This memorial series brings together talks by Harless's former PhD advisor, his co-authors, and our own faculty. 

William Thomson is the Elmer B. Milliman Professor of Economics at the University of Rochester, and Patrick completed his PhD under his supervision. He is the author of Guide for the Young Economist (MIT Press), which has been translated into four languages. From 2003 to 2008, he was editor-in-chief of the International Journal of Game Theory, and from 2004 to 2006 he was president of the Society for Social Choice and Welfare. His talk is going to be based on his recent book How to Divide When There Isn’t Enough: From Aristotle, the Talmud, and Maimonides to the Axiomatics of Resource Allocation (Cambridge University Press).

Abstract: When a firm goes bankrupt, how should its liquidation value be divided among its creditors? Taking as a starting point several examples of situations of that type discussed in antiquity and medieval times, I will use the adjudication of conflicting claims over a resource as a vehicle to introduce the axiomatic approach to economic design. The central position underlying the approach is that solution mappings are not God-given; rather they are the object of choice. The approach consists in the formulation of criteria of desirability of solution mappings and in the study of their compatibility when imposed in various combinations. I will review the central principles that have been invoked in the development of this research program and discuss its do's and don't's.

This talk will be hosted on Zoom by Lucy Schwarz. Please contact Lucy for details if you are interested in attending or if you wish to be added to our listserv.


12:30 p.m. Jan. 21, 2021

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Thursday, January 28, 2021 - 16:08