Convex Program Duality, Fisher Markets, and Nash Social Welfare

Richard Cole, Nikhil R. Devanur, Vasilis Gkatzelis, Kamal Jain, Tung Mai, Vijay V. Vazirani, Sadra Yazdanbod

We study Fisher markets and the problem of maximizing the Nash social welfare (NSW), and show several closely related new results. In particular, we obtain: -- A new integer program for the NSW maximization problem whose fractional relaxation has a bounded integrality gap. In contrast, the natural integer program has an unbounded integrality gap. -- An improved, and tight, factor 2 analysis of the algorithm of [7]; in turn showing that the integrality gap of the above relaxation is at most 2. The approximation factor shown by [7] was $2e^{1/e} \approx 2.89$. -- A lower bound of $e^{1/e}\approx 1.44$ on the integrality gap of this relaxation. -- New convex programs for natural generalizations of linear Fisher markets and proofs that these markets admit rational equilibria. These results were obtained by establishing connections between previously known disparate results, and they help uncover their mathematical underpinnings. We show a formal connection between the convex programs of Eisenberg and Gale and that of Shmyrev, namely that their duals are equivalent up to a change of variables. Both programs capture equilibria of linear Fisher markets. By adding suitable constraints to Shmyrev's program, we obtain a convex program that captures equilibria of the spending-restricted market model defined by [7] in the context of the NSW maximization problem. Further, adding certain integral constraints to this program we get the integer program for the NSW mentioned above. The basic tool we use is convex programming duality. In the special case of convex programs with linear constraints (but convex objectives), we show a particularly simple way of obtaining dual programs, putting it almost at par with linear program duality. This simple way of finding duals has been used subsequently for many other applications.

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