Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Game Theory, in Concert

I'll soon offer my Contracts II students a performance of "Excuses," a country-and-western flavored song that illustrates the defenses of mistake, impracticability, and frustration of purpose. I began that annual tradition in 2005. This year, though, I aim to add something new. Since I'll have my guitar on campus, anyhow, and since I've got several new compositions I'd like to air, I plan to hold a twee concert fundraiser, open to all students and faculty. Here's the poster I worked up to advertise the event:

Bell Concert Poster

What good cause will the concert fund? I'll let the audience decide. Specifically, I'll let them vote between two options: An "Entertainment Law Study Scholarship" (which will help its recipient defray the cost of textbooks and provide a nice addition to his or her C.V.) or a contribution to support the woefully underfunded law school newspaper, "The Courier." As the poster indicates, each person who buys a $2 ticket to attend the concert will automatically get to cast a vote in favor of one of those two options. Additional votes will cost $1/each. The good cause that gets the most votes will get all of the concert's revenue.

Why that unusual arrangement? I figure that it might encourage strategic vote buying by parties especially eager to steer the collected funds towards their favorite causes. That effect would, of course, increase the total amount of money raised. Granted, my scheme presents some complications. Properly administered, though, I think it might provide some good, clean fun. It might illustrate a thing or two about game theory, too.


Anonymous said...

Good idea... but wouldn't the game be more fun & rancorous with some 'third party' donation options? You could add the Cato Institute and the Free Mumia campaign, say.

--Wait, these might cause students to wonder why their 'good cause' dollars should go towards the law school community, as suggested by both of your proposals. But, you could find local analogues.

Glen Whitman said...

Cool. Have you considered composing a tune for the Coasean Blues?

Tom W. Bell said...

Anon: Keep in mind that I need to lure people to attend the event in the first place--and that I cannot count on my music offering much of a draw. I thus thought that I should pick causes that almost anybody in the law school would find agreeable, even if a second-best choice. Otherwise, would-be attendees might fear their donations would be effectively wasted.

Glen: I'll try to bring my guitar to the symposium later this summer, so we can work on that.

Steven Bass said...

It seems that the newspaper (a unified organization presumably with a nontrivial budget) would have an innate advantage. They can spend their entire budget on votes with the confidence that all that money will be returned to them, plus the additional proceeds.