A qualitative Vickrey auction


Journal Article

Restricting the preferences of the agents by assuming that their utility functions linearly depend on a payment allows for the positive results of the Vickrey auction and the Vickrey-Clarke-Groves mechanism. These results, however, are limited to settings where there is some commonly desired commodity or numeraire - money, shells, beads, etcetera - which is commensurable with utility. We propose a generalization of the Vickrey auction that does not assume that the agents' preferences are quasilinear, but nevertheless retains some of the Vickrey auction's desirable properties. In this auction, a bid can be any alternative, rather than just a monetary offer. As a consequence, the auction is also applicable to situations where there is a fixed budget, or no numeraire is available at all (or it is undesirable to use payments for other reasons) - such as, for example, in the allocation of the task of contributing a module to an open-source project. We show that in two general settings, this qualitative Vickrey auction has a dominant-strategy equilibrium, invariably yields a weakly Pareto efficient outcome in this equilibrium, and is individually rational. In the first setting, the center has a linear preference order over a finite set of alternatives, and in the second setting, the bidders' preferences can be represented by continuous utility functions over a closed metric space of alternatives and the center's utility is equipeaked. The traditional Vickrey auction turns out to be a special case of the qualitative Vickrey auction in this second setting. Copyright 2009 ACM.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Harrenstein, BP; De Weerdt, MM; Conitzer, V

Published Date

  • December 1, 2009

Published In

  • Proceedings of the Acm Conference on Electronic Commerce

Start / End Page

  • 197 - 206

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1145/1566374.1566403

Citation Source

  • Scopus