The dollar auction in action

It’s called “Swoopo.” Ought to be illegal, but I don’t think it is.

Ever since I learned about Martin Shubik’s “dollar auction” game from Howard Raiffa, the larcenous part of my soul has wondered whether there might be a way to implement it in real life without going to jail.

Answer: Yes.

It’s called “Swoopo.” It masquerades as an auction site, but each bidder is charged 75 cents for each bid, and a bid only pushes up the price of the item by 15 cents.

[At least, I don’t think you can go to jail for this; it ought to be illegal, but I can’t figure out what actual law it violates. The operators seem to be frank about the mechanics, so there’s no misrepresentation and therefore no fraud in the legal sense. And I don’t think it’s technically “gambling,” either. Open to correction on this point from those who know.]

H/t Megan McArdle, Kevin Drum

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: