Queuing vs. Lotteries

I was watching a talk by Michael Sandel yesterday dealing with his book What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets (2012). He discusses the fact that people have to queue to attend congressional hearings, federal court hearings, etc. Apparently, you can hire someone to wait in line (all night, if need be) to save your place for you. There are even services that you can contact that specialize in this.

There is often discussion about whether lotteries and queues are interchangeable, equivalent, etc. It strikes me that this is a clear case where a lottery would be superior to a queue. (Not sure if they discuss lotteries at all in here, as I haven’t had the time to finish the video yet.)

Sandel’s talk can be found here:

One Response

  1. This idea has been discussed in Taylor, Grant A.,Tsui, Kevin K K. & Zhu, Lijing (May 2003) Lottery or waiting-line auction? J Public Economics Elsevier 87 (2003) 1313-1334.

    Again, a good example of the surprising usefulness of our general purpose tool — randomisation in social affairs.


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