The Deadwight Loss of Thanksgiving Dinner Potlucks

I’m not one of these people who complains about the deadweight loss of Christmas. If you want to get all homo economicus, presents are a valuable signal: finding out how well someone really knows you is hard (expensive), whereas buying a book or even a TV is easy (cheap). Potlucks, on the other hand, bug me to no end.

Cooking has obvious economies of scale: cooking ten times as much of a dish takes perhaps twice as long; and cooking ten times as many dishes has about the same overhead, because so much can be done in parallel (and the relative overhead is even lower, if you consider cleanup time). Having each person prepare a single dish is the most inefficient possible way to go about it. Furthermore, not everyone has the same aptitude for cooking: division of labor, people! Worse yet, each person inevitably brings at least one dish or dessert that’s large enough to feed five or ten people (and oftentimes more than one), so there’s an order of magnitude food than necessary, much of which goes to waste (leftovers aren’t as good as freshly made food, so this is lossy even if the food gets eaten).

P.S. If you’re in Austin, and want some leftover pie (apple, pecan, or pumpkin), cake (chocolate), side dishes (green bean casserole, stuffing, or gravy), meat (turkey or chicken), or meat substitute (seitan or tofu) let me know.

The Deadwight Loss of Thanksgiving Dinner Potlucks

UT Algorithmic Game Theory / Computational Mechanism Design / Multiagent Systems Reading Group

There are at least a few groups doing related work here at the University of Texas: a handful of people working with Greg Plaxton, a couple of people doing mechanism design in the Laboratory for Intelligent Processes and Systems (LIPS) with Suzanne Barber, and the trading agents folks working with Peter Stone, but we don’t run into each other much. Not to mention the people in the Economics, Operations Research, and Business Schools that I haven’t even heard of.

To remedy this, I’m starting an AGT / CMD / MAS reading group. I’ve run the idea by a handful of interested ECE students who have promised to show up. I imagine there’s more interest for this topic among CS and Econ students, but I don’t know how to reach those folks. Please forward this to anyone you think might be interested, and shoot me an email, leave a comment here, or subscribe to algorthmic-game-theory-reading-group@utlists.utexas.edu, if you want to join. Thanks!

UT Algorithmic Game Theory / Computational Mechanism Design / Multiagent Systems Reading Group