Friday, August 01, 2008

A Proposal for a Market for Trading Bunks

The inspiration for this idea is a certain course whose classes are quite drab. Much to my chagrin I realized that I had unknowingly exhausted my quota of bunks and am doomed to attend all the classes henceforth. The distant reader has no idea of the torture that yours truly undergoes! The torture is not so much the class itself, rather the fact that I had chosen this course as an elective i.e out of my own volition and hence have no one else to blame.

Then it occurred to me that certain individuals do not bunk classes at all or, at any rate never use, nor even intend to use up their full quota. Let us call these people who have the bunking quota to be “possessors of bunks”. Therefore, (the logical mind thinks), on the one hand we have people who need bunks and on the other hand we have those that are not particularly enthusiastic about the said bunks.

Eureka! There is a market here! Before we get into the details, there is an assumption here. The assumption is that the penalty for not meeting attendance requirements is hefty and it is strictly enforced. If it is not strictly enforced or the bunk penalty is not significant, there is no need for a market. Just suck up to whomsoever it may concern when you are in trouble!

The question begs to be asked and I shall ask it “Why do some individuals not bunk?” For us to build a market there must be an economic motivation underlying bunking/non-bunking which gives value to it in the first place. That economic value is value of time. If I think I would be better off sleeping that attending class then there is an incentive to bunk. This is important from the non-bunkers’ side. There are two species of non-bunkers.

There are some who derive a moralistic pleasure out of non-bunking i.e for these folks “non-bunking” is a way of creating a moral pedestal, a way of telling the world, “I am more perfect than you because I don’t bunk, you depraved turd.” Sadly, there is no cure known for moralists and these people shall grow on to becoming social activists, cause fighters, prohibitionists and other generally undesirable elements of society. In fact, my belief is that, as much harm is done by people who set out to do “good”, as those who set out to do “bad”. For who decides what is good and bad? If he who doth bad, doth not think it is good from his viewpoint, he would not do it, would he?

The second class of bunkers would be my target audience. These people go to class with a none-to-sure emotion. Years of being sincere makes them feel that missing class, would somehow do them harm, but basically they are kids who would like to have a good time in life. They just have a voice in their heads which keeps on chiming “After all, there is a chance that something significant could be done in class…” Correction, all of us have that voice, just that some of us have stopped listening to it a long time ago. However even they know that some classes are just a drag. More fundamentally, they have nothing better to do with their times. Nothing better to do with their time. Therefore, if these possessors of bunks could be compensated with something for their time, then there is a chance they would bunk.

Out of this crucial insight flows the market for bunking. As a first step, let us assume that only bunks can be traded for a particular subject. Therefore, is we have some course, say Creative Financial Accounting 101 and 60 people take it, then the bunks are traded only within these 60. We develop a software system where each guy in the class offers his bunks for sale or bids for bunks.

A system would look like this:

Since it is only one course, the same guy cannot buy and sell bunks. However, there is one issue here. What if someone sells bunks without having enough of them? Why would he/she do that? In an educational setting, you know everyone usually. But what if it is a huge campus? And what if the market for bunks is irrational and over-pricing it? Then maybe someone would profit by selling bogus bunks.

This is where the assumption fits in. If the penalty is strictly enforced, then the seller of bogus bunks does not have the incentive to sell it, because he/she is putting his degree in jeopardy.

But anyway, just to prevent any irrational behaviour, we can have an additional field for available bunks so that people boycott bogus bunk sellers.

But this kind of a system is really not very optimal. In our example, Middleton may not like Creative Financial Accounting but he may like the course “How to make Common Sense Sound Sophisticated” while Middleshwar may prefer the latter to the former. In this case, they end up taking these courses, and because of our first requirement, their pool of bunks is restricted to their respective classmates. To solve the problem, we relax the requirement of bunks being traded only within a section. Therefore, if an individual takes 5 courses and he/she is allowed 5 bunks per course, then that individual has 25 bunks to trade.

One thorny issue remains. What if Middleton takes Creative Financial Accounting as well as “How to Make Common Sense Sound Sophisticated” (HTMCS3) and the former course has marks for attendance while the latter does not. Can that individual transfer bunks to himself free of cost or should he pay the market rate for HTMCS3 bunks? Till now we have also implicitly assumed that there is no agency like an exchange.

Again, going back to what we have said, the 25 bunks is Middleton’s property. Therefore, he/she should be allowed to transfer it free of charge. But as such I am not in favour of it.
The better system would be to insist that Middleton pay the going rate for HTMCS3 bunks.

Voila! Again we apply the power of Adam Smith’s invisible hand to setup a most satisfactory system for allocating one’s time. Sigh, if only someone would implement it.


Anand said...

There's a fundamental problem. You can't short the bunks. And everyone knows shorting increases market efficiency.

Don't tell that to the guys at Bear Sterns though

Maddy said...


Shankar said...

this sounds like wimpy's blog post

Shankar said...

in a good way :)

Malar said...

Is the course referred to MGS? :) How great it wud be if Acad can convince Mr.Gundu to implement such a system! Nice post, btw.

Anonymous said...

pseudo market terminology: deficit bunking units and surplus bunking units.

C-lay said...

dude only one way to solve all ur problems da ...
put its the proxy :)
or we can have more profs like sangamitra bhattacharya :)

themiddler said...


I don't think the intention is efficiency here. It is more to save your ass :P

themiddler said...


Thank You! Actually was trying to imitate Maugham after reading a few pages of 'Cakes and Ale'. Aaah... imitation is the best form of flattery :)

themiddler said...


Nice to see you here!

TKGR is well... like an unmovable rock. So... this will remain blogposts and fantasies :P

themiddler said...


Is it the same anonymous who left the comment on the house at TinStop Hill? If so, is it a Mr. or Ms. Anonymous :P

themiddler said...


That's a compliment :)

themiddler said...


aaah... the tribe of female profs may increase :P