Approximating Gains from Trade in Two-sided Markets via Simple Mechanisms

Johannes Brustle, Yang Cai, Fa Wu, Mingfei Zhao

We design simple mechanisms to approximate the Gains from Trade (GFT) in two-sided markets with multiple unit-supply sellers and multiple unit-demand buyers. A classical impossibility result by Myerson and Satterthwaite showed that even with only one seller and one buyer, no Individually Rational (IR), Bayesian Incentive Compatible (BIC) and Budget-Balanced (BB) mechanism can achieve full GFT (trade whenever buyer's value is higher than the seller's cost). On the other hand, they proposed the "second-best" mechanism that maximizes the GFT subject to IR, BIC and BB constraints, which is unfortunately rather complex for even the single-seller single-buyer case. Our mechanism is simple, IR, BIC and BB, and achieves $\frac{1}{2}$ of the optimal GFT among all IR, BIC and BB mechanisms. Our result holds for arbitrary distributions of the buyers' and sellers' values and can accommodate any downward-closed feasibility constraints over the allocations. The analysis of our mechanism is facilitated by extending the Cai-Weinberg-Devanur duality framework to two-sided markets.

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