Tim Harford Columnist

If you and I were to bid against each other in a charity auction for, say, dinner with Princess Marie of Denmark, little would have to be explained about how the details of the auction work. One of us values the prospect more, would pay more, and would win.

But if you and I were bidding against each other for the joint value of the cash in our wallets, the auction becomes far more intriguing. I know only what is in my wallet and you know only what is in yours. Each of us should take a keen interest in what the other is willing to pay, since it is a clear signal of the value of the prize.

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