Welfare Trade-offs between Transferable and Non-Transferable Lotteries
The Four Rivers lottery run by the National Forest Service distributes the opportunity to raft four sections of rivers in Idaho through a non-transferable lottery. The restriction of trade and focus on equity in distribution creates a deadweight loss in total surplus compared with a market or auction system. If the NFS allowed the transferring of permits, then there exists a potential for rafters to gain surplus in trade. However, non-rafters have an incentive to enter the transferable lottery to make a profit from trade. Using the NFS lottery as a guide, this paper examines welfare under the two lottery system to understand how changes in transferability affect the welfare of users and non-users, and the revenues of the government. Since variables, such as number of permits, permit fees, and application fees, also impact welfare, we derive comparative statics for these variables to demonstrate how these government controls affect rafter welfare, non-rafter welfare, and government revenue differently under transferable and non-transferable lotteries. Our results show the welfare trade-offs rafters have between transferable and non-transferable lotteries.
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