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In Watt v. Energy Action Educational Foundation, the Supreme Court rebutted a challenge to the federal government's mix of 'nontraditional' outer continental shelf lease-auction mechanisms authorized under the 1978 OCS Amendments. The issues of this case addressed here include: the economic intent of the congressional language; incentive properties of various of the authorized auction processes; methodological shortcomings inherent in the implicit congressional directive for field experimentation; and, the usefulness of laboratory experimental economics in answering relevant auction-policy questions. The discussion of experimental economics includes evidence already gained from laboratory experiments relating to hypotheses about auction-market performance.


Originally published in:

Cox, James C., R. Mark Isaac, and Vernon L. Smith. 1983. “OCS Leasing and Auctions: Incentives and the Performance of Alternative Bidding Institutions”. Supreme Court Economic Review 2, 1983.

(c) University of Chicago Press; posted with the permission of the publisher

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