John McMillan

Very sad news today with John McMillan, one of the world’s finest in terms of his work on auctions and markets, passing away at the age of 56. McMillan was a professor at Stanford’s GSB but for we, down under, he was always the one who proved that a local education could take you far.

McMillan was a native New Zealander and did his initial studies in his home town at the University of Canterbury. His PhD work was at the University of New South Wales before accepting a position at the University of Western Ontario. It was ever upwards and onwards from that point. But he was ever a regular visitor to these parts and he will definitely be missed.

Perhaps his most important academic work was on the economics of auctions and, especially, how to make competitive forces work in them; that is, just because you force people to bid doesn’t mean that they will compete. In particular, McMillan’s regional connections brought the issues of ‘getting auction design right’ to the rest of the world (click here for an accessible article describing the follies of some Australian and New Zealand auction failures). This same message was conveyed through his books that gave non-economists an understanding of game theory and of the way markets work. The world has lost a great provider and disseminator of knowledge.