Monday, September 10, 2012

Dutch Auction

The Dutch may not have invented it, but this type of auction is usually called by that name. Instead of the bidding beginning at a low level, requiring higher bids until the bidding stops, at which time the last bid is successful, this procedure is reversed. In other words, the auctioneer starts with a high figure, and reduces this by successive small amounts until a bidder decides that the price is right. When I last heard, this system was in use in the leading flower market in the Netherlands. I was reminded of this after viewing a TV special narrated by Candice Bergen. This was about the many Nazi criminals who had successfully evaded justice. Many of these found their way to the United States. They can't be accused of genocide, or even abetting murder, because of the Statute of Limitations or insufficient evidence. However, they can be deported if it can be shown that they made false statements when applying for entry visas. Most of these criminals are now deceased, but we were shown one elderly man, long slated for deportation. We were told that no country would take him. This gave me a totally impractical (but entertaining) idea. Most of us remember the use of the phrase "extraordinary rendition", to describe the forcible removal of captured prisoners of war, to countries less scrupulous about torturing them to obtain information. In my imagination, there would be a number of impoverished countries (Haiti, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, etc) that need money. I imagined a Dutch auction, because the USA could afford to pay sums which might be attractive to these countries, to accept "rendition" of criminals subject to deportation orders. (I am not suggesting that these folk be tortured or starved). This reversal of normal practice reminds me of a childhood game. Typically, with two teams picking sides, the best players were chosen first, and then the next choice went to the other team. (In a fairer version of this, the second team chose the next two players, the original team the following two, and so on). In reverse, we imagined that we were in a sled being chased by a pack of wolves. We would choose one person as the first to be sacrificed to the wolves, and then the remaining "passengers" would select the next "victim", and so forth. The end result is that only one "survivor" remains. What happens if two or more bidders choose the same price at which to buy? Either the first one to speak is the successful bidder, or one could draw lots to determine the outcome.

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