Martin Shubik, Economist and Game Theory Pioneer, Dies at 92


When self-appointed deli mavens critiqued his methodology and stodgy economists chided his flippancy, Professor Shubik wrote that his research represented “a modest attempt to preserve for the annals, before it became too late, a record of the Great American Vanishing Species known as the Pastrami and the Corned Beef Sannawiches.” He also issued a warning: “Run, my friend — do not walk, for time is short and the world is about to be buried in bran flakes.” (In fact, all four of the delis the professors tested are now defunct.)

With Lloyd S. Shapely, a Nobel-winning economist, Professor Shubik developed an index to measure the power wielded by coalitions within groups ranging from shareholders to legislatures.

At Princeton, they, John Nash and another mathematician were among the creators of an economic strategy game, “So Long Sucker,” in which four players can make, and renege on, agreements with one another.

Professor Shubik also invented the mathematical model for “Dollar Auction,” a game that illustrates “escalation of commitment” because while the winner collects the bill, the second-highest bidder loses whatever he bid.

Martin Shubik was born on March 24, 1926, in Manhattan to Joseph Shubik, who was born in Russia and was in New York working for a Scottish flax and linen company, and Sara (Soloveychik) Shubik.

Two years after Martin was born, the family returned to England, where he was raised until the onslaught of German air raids, when he, his mother and his sister were sent to join relatives in Canada. He finished high school there.

He did well in algebra but poorly in geometry. (“I see well in many dimensions as long as the dimensions are around two,” he said in an interview last year with the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences.)


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