Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Sally Satel on EconTalk, talking about organ donation (podcast)

Sally Satel on Organ Donation

EconTalk Episode with Sally Satel
Hosted by Russ Roberts
You Are What You Eat...
kidney.jpgSally Satel, psychiatrist and resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the challenges of increasing the supply of donated organs for transplantation and ways that public policy might increase the supply. Satel, who has received two kidney donations, suggests a federal tax credit as a way to increase the supply of organs while saving the federal government money. She also discusses the ethical issues surrounding various forms of compensation for organ donors.
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Readings and Links related to this podcast episode

Related Readings
This week's guest: This week's focus: Additional ideas and people mentioned in this podcast episode: A few more readings and background resources: A few more EconTalk podcast episodes:


Podcast Episode Highlights
Intro. [Recording date: July 6, 2017.]
Russ Roberts: Sally Satel recently wrote an article with Alan Viard entitled "The Kindest (Tax) Cut: A Federal Tax Credit for Organ Donations," and that's going to be our topic for today.... So, you bring a special perspective to kidney donations. Talk about your personal story.
Sally Satel: Yeah. I got a kidney in 2006; and then I got another kidney a year ago, almost a year ago today. And, when I got my first one it was sort of a surprise. A lot of people who know that they're going to need a kidney--well, by definition, they know that they're going to need a kidney. What I meant is that they have certain illnesses--they are either diabetic, or they've got lupus, severe hypertension that's been poorly managed for a while, high blood pressure. People know they are at risk for this, for kidney failure. But my case was sort of a surprise. I just went to the doctor for a regular checkup. This is the part of the story that scares everyone, because I felt completely fine. And during a routine blood draw, found out that I had--well, that I had kidney failure. Which is rather easy to diagnose. It's a test called a creatinine level. But when you go for a regular blood draw, a routine blood draw, that's one of the indexes they measure. So, they tested it again, and that was the same. So, the clock was ticking for me, because I knew from my medical training that if you have kidney failure, you need a new kidney, or you will languish on dialysis for years. And no matter how long you are on dialysis, your life will be prematurely shortened. I mean, people have lived for 20 years, even a little longer, on dialysis. Some people tolerate it better than others. That's a process where your blood is cleansed of toxins about 3 times a week for about 4 hours at a time; you go to a clinic. Most people feel very debilitated by it. The average person on dialysis can't hold a job. But some do. And, some people--it isn't as psychologically devastating to some folks. But others find it so distressing, they are actually--suicide is not that unusual. So, the idea of being tethered to that machine, while, granted, it would keep me alive. Now, if my liver had failed and I didn't get a transplant, that would be it. So, kidney dialysis does keep people alive for awhile. But it just seemed like a really, really half a life. So, I knew I needed a kidney, but I didn't know exactly when I would need dialysis. So, as I said, the clock started ticking. And it turned out I had a good year before the function got to the point where I really was becoming physically debilitated. But it was very hard finding a donor. And that's what kind of galvanized me, this whole issue of the shortage. But, just in terms of finding a donor, as I say, it was extremely difficult. It's not like every day you ask people for a body part. And I didn't have--I have a very tiny family. And, to make a long story short, none of them--I didn't feel I could ask any of them. And in fact I never really asked anyone. I would do it all differently if, heaven forbid, there is yet a third time I have to go through this--see, I'm very nice to my interns. But I would just talk about it with folks and wasn't even being coy. I just sort of thought magically, 'Oh, well some people will think of being a donor, and it will work out.' But it became pretty clear that it wasn't working out. And a lot of people actually said they would do it; and I appreciate that in that I know they wanted to be--I know they felt empathy for my situation; but in the end, basically, a lot of them got cold feet and backed out. And then you're in this terribly awkward position, because you really can't be angry. I mean it's an enormous thing to ask, and it would be incredibly presumptuous to have the expectation that they owed you anything. So, I was really getting very demoralized and about to get ready to go on dialysis. And, Virginia Postrel, who I knew, not very well, had been at a cocktail reception somewhere--this was in November of 2005--and she ran into a mutual friend and asked that friend how I was. And the friend said, 'Not so hot. She needs a kidney.' And, Virginia went--I think the next went to her computer--I remember the subject line; I still have a printout of her email--it said, 'Serious Offer.' And she said, 'So-and-so told me you needed a kidney, and if I match, I will do it.' And I think she followed up a few minutes later with another email: 'I won't back out.' And, so, she went through with it. This was March of 2006. And I'm almost as grateful to Steve, her husband, as to her, because that was one of the reasons that two of my friends, other of my friends who had seriously considered donating did not go through with it--because their spouse basically said, 'It's the kidney or a divorce.' [More to come. 6:48]

Monday, July 24, 2017

Celebrating János Kornai at 90, In Budapest

Here's the Call for Papers:  The importance of János Kornai's research for understanding the changing role of the state in the economy 

"The aim of this conference - organized on the occasion of Kornai's 90th birthday - is to bring together scholars from a wide variety of disciplines (economists, political economists, political scientists, sociologists and historians), advanced scholars as well as PhD students who build on Kornai’s insights (www.kornai-janos.hu) in their own research."
"Important dates:

Deadline for abstract submission: September 15, 2017
Notification of acceptance: October 1, 2017
Payment of conference fees: February 1, 2018
Full paper submission: February 1, 2018
Conference: Feb 21, 2018 

A celebration of Victor Elias, at 80, in Tucuman

Here's a story about and interview with Victor Elias in La Gaceta, complete with testimonials from students whose lives he touched.

 El académico que optó por quedarse en su Tucumán
Acaba de cumplir 80 años y la academia le rendirá un tributo al doctor en Economía por la Universidad de Chicago y director del Magister de la UNT. Sus alumnos recuerdan las enseñanzas que le dejó al profesor que, según confiesa, se retroalimenta con la creatividad de los aspirantes a economistas.

[G translate: The academic who opted to stay in his Tucumán
He has just turned 80 and the academy will pay a tribute to the Doctor of Economics from the University of Chicago and director of the UNT Magister. His students remember the teachings [of] the teacher who, he confesses, is fed by the creativity of aspiring economists.]

Victor Elias and Al Roth, Tucuman, 2016, taken by Ivan Werning

Here's an earlier interview, from 2005
Entrevista a Víctor Jorge Elías
by Juan Carlos De Pablo

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Random Matching under Priorities: Stability and No Envy Concepts by Haris Aziz and Bettina Klaus

Here's the preprint of a new paper by Haris Aziz and Bettina Klaus:
Random Matching under Priorities: Stability and No Envy Concepts

We consider stability concepts for random matchings where agents have preferences over objects and objects have priorities for the agents. When matchings are deterministic, the standard stability concept also captures the fairness property of no (justified) envy. When matchings can be random, there are a number of natural stability / fairness concepts that coincide with stability / no envy whenever matchings are deterministic. We formalize known stability concepts for random matchings for a general setting that allows weak preferences and weak priorities, unacceptability, and an unequal number of agents and objects. We then present a clear taxonomy of the stability concepts and identify logical relations between them.Furthermore, we provide no envy / claims interpretations for some of the stability concepts that are based on a consumption process interpretation of random matchings. Finally, we present a transformation from the most general setting to the most restricted setting, and show how almost all our stability concepts are preserved by that transformation.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Epilepsy and Neurophysiology fellowships are unravelled

Here is an article calling for a match. The opening paragraphs describe the current, unraveled recruiting process.

The Case for an Epilepsy and Clinical Neurophysiology Match  RSS  Download PDF

Pediatric Neurology, 2017-07-01, Volume 72, Pages 5-6, Copyright © 2017 Elsevier Inc.
"Accredited epilepsy and clinical neurophysiology fellowships in the United States do not participate in a formal matching system to facilitate selection of trainees. For the 2015 to 2016 academic year, there were about 95 accredited clinical neurophysiology fellowship programs offering 313 positions and 43 epilepsy fellowship programs with 106 available positions. Each of these programs has their own unique recruitment process. The lack of a standardized process may be disadvantageous for both applicants and the training programs.
With our current approach, applicants may feel compelled to accept a fellowship offer before completing other program visits and with little time to consider their options. This situation occurs when a position is offered on the spot or soon after an interview. Unless the offer is quickly accepted, the candidate risks losing a guaranteed opportunity in order to explore other programs. The lack of uniformity in the application process can create additional difficulties for applicants.
Similarly, knowing that good candidates are likely to receive offers from other institutions during an interview, many institutions feel compelled to make a quick decision in their selection of fellows. In an effort to avoid vacancies, program directors may be tempted to select applicants who are available but may not be the best choice. Adopting a formal match system would create a more organized process with clear advantages for both applicants and programs."

Friday, July 21, 2017

Usury and theology

At Aeon, Alex Mayyasi writes about the work of banker turned theologian David Miller:

Of money and morals
Moneylending has been taboo for most of human history. So how did usury stop being a sin and become respectable finance?

"Vedic law in Ancient India condemned usury, and rulers routinely capped interest rates from Ancient Mesopotamia to Ancient Greece. In Politics, Aristotle described usury as ‘the birth of money from money’, and claimed it was unnatural because money was sterile and should not ‘breed’.
"In the 4th century CE, Christian councils denounced the practice, and by 800, the emperor Charlemagne made the prohibition into law. Accounts of merchants and bankers in the Middle Ages frequently include expressions of anguish over their profits. In his Divine Comedy of the 14th century, the Italian poet Dante Alighieri put the usurers in the seventh circle of Hell..."

"The stigma against moneylending continued well into the 1500s. To understand it, think about your reaction to the idea of a bank making a loan to a business at a 5 per cent interest rate. No problem, right? Now compare that to how you’d feel if your mother lent you money on the same terms. In Biblical times, the typical loan was more like the second case – it wasn’t an arms-length transaction, but a charitable loan from a wealthy man to a neighbour who’d experienced misfortune or had nowhere else to turn. "

Thursday, July 20, 2017


The celebration of Pradeep Dubey and Yair Tauman is going on now.

Here's the program.

Declining racial disparities in deceased-donor kidney allocation

Here's an article from the June issue of Health Affairs, reporting that racial disparities among deceased-donor kidney recipients seem to have declined since the introduction of a modified allocation procedure.

New Kidney Allocation System Associated With Increased Rates Of Transplants Among Black And Hispanic Patients

  1. Rachel E. Patzer8,*
+Author Affiliations
  1. 1Taylor A. Melanson is a doctoral student in the Laney Graduate School, Emory University, in Atlanta, Georgia.
  2. 2Jason M. Hockenberry is an associate professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management, Rollins School of Public Health, at Emory University.
  3. 3Laura Plantinga is an assistant professor in the Department of Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine.
  4. 4Mohua Basu is a data analyst at the Emory University School of Medicine.
  5. 5Stephan Pastan is an associate professor in the Department of Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine.
  6. 6Sumit Mohan is an assistant professor in the Division of Nephrology, Department of Medicine, and in the Department of Epidemiology at Columbia University Medical Center, in New York City.
  7. 7David H. Howard is an assistant professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management, Rollins School of Public Health, at Emory University.
  8. 8Rachel E. Patzer (rpatzer@emory.edu) is an assistant professor in the Department of Surgery and Department of Medicine at the Emory University School of Medicine, and in the Department of Epidemiology at the Rollins School of Public Health.
  1. Health Affvol. 36no. 6 1078-1085


Before the 2014 implementation of a new kidney allocation system by the United Network for Organ Sharing, white patients were more likely than black or Hispanic patients to receive a kidney transplant. To determine the effect of the new allocation system on these disparities, we examined data for 179,071 transplant waiting list events in the period June 2013–September 2016, and we calculated monthly transplantation rates (34,133 patients actually received transplants). Implementation of the new system was associated with a narrowing of the disparities in the average monthly transplantation rates by 0.29 percentage point for blacks compared to whites and by 0.24 percentage point for Hispanics compared to whites, which resulted in both disparities becoming nonsignificant after implementation of the new system.

From the paper:
"The United Network for Organ Sharing implemented a new kidney allocation system in December 2014,26 in part to address long-standing racial/ethnic disparities in the allocation of deceased donor kidneys. The primary factor for determining a patient’s priority level on the waiting list for a kidney transplant is how long he or she has been waiting. Under the new system, the starting point for calculating waiting time was changed from the date the patient was put on the waiting list to the earliest of either that date or the date of the patient’s first regular dialysis. This change was expected to benefit minorities because blacks and Hispanics spend more time on dialysis before being put on the waiting list, compared to white patients.27,28 The new system made additional changes meant to improve access to transplantation, including making it easier for patients with a highly sensitized immune system to receive transplants and increasing the sharing of kidneys across donor service area boundaries. It is important to note that this policy targets the allocation of deceased-donor kidneys, not of live-donor kidneys."

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Blackmail has something in common with transactions that become repugnant when money is added

Blackmail isn't what I usually mean when I speak of a repugnant transaction, because it isn't a voluntary transaction that third parties wish to prevent, it's a crime that someone assaults someone else with. But, just as some praiseworthy transactions (like donating a kidney to someone who needs a transplant) can become repugnant when money is added (both demanding compensation and compensating the donor of a kidney for transplant is a crime almost everywhere), the crime of blackmail involves combining actions that are otherwise legal but that together are criminal.

For example, if someone knows something about you that you would like to conceal, it is quite often legal for them to reveal it to interested parties, or even in a biography of you they might write (e.g. your past arrests, affairs, political affiliations and contributions, etc.). It would also be quite legal for you to approach someone and commission them to write something about you, including something over which you might have editorial control. But if someone proposes to combine these things, by threatening to write bad things about you unless you pay him money, that is in many cases the criminal act of blackmail.

More on blackmail and it's subtleties (e.g. I can't demand that you pay me if you don't want me to reveal that you are a thief, but I could threaten to report you the police if you don't pay me for something you stole from me...) in this interesting column at the Washington Post's Volokh Conspiracy:
Blackmail is surprisingly hard to define