Outgoing professor Van Damme: Economics serves people

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In economics, people are the focus, not economics, Eric van Damme argued in his farewell address on June 22. However, this message, which really should be obvious, is often forgotten in economic reporting, such as when it is stated that people should do things because it is good for the economy. Van Damme argues that this is because such reporting emphasizes macroeconomic aspects in which the human being behind the numbers is hidden, leading to a distorted picture.

 In his speech, game theorist Van Damme focuses on microeconomics and gives several examples of situations in which game-theoretic models have been or are being used in decisions that affect the daily lives of many of us.

Game theory supports design markets

Game theory is a mathematical theory that allows us to better understand how people resolve conflicts and can benefit from cooperation. Game theory is used in designing markets so that they function well, and auctions (such as this summer’s auction of FM radio frequencies) to ensure that predetermined goals are met. The theory is also important in competition policy, such as in detecting cartels and preventing the abuse of dominant positions.

In his speech, Van Damme discusses three examples from his own work: the theory of "Global Games," which predicts how coordination problems are solved and provides insights for regulating financial markets. Also, work on platform markets that played a role in a US Supreme Court ruling on the credit-card market. And finally recent research for the Ministry of Economic Affairs on the effectiveness of legislation on abuse of dominance.   

Eric van Damme  worked at Tilburg University since 1989. He started as a research professor at the then newly founded CentER and later served as director of TILEC, the Tilburg Law and Economics Center. He is a Fellow of the Econometric Society (1993) and has been a member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, KNAW, since 2003. In 2009 he was appointed Knight of the Order of the Dutch Lion for his scholarly achievements.  

Professor Eric van Damme will deliver his farewell speech on June 22 at 4:15 p.m. in the university’s auditorium, with live stream. The speech is titled: ’The beauty and the beast; The game and the marbles.’ 
For more information, contact science editor Tineke Bennema, at persvoorlichters@tilburguniversity.edu and 4668998.