Fair and Efficient Allocations Without Obvious Manipulations

Part of Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 35 (NeurIPS 2022) Main Conference Track

Bibtex Paper Supplemental


Alexandros Psomas, Paritosh Verma


We consider the fundamental problem of allocating a set of indivisible goods among strategic agents with additive valuation functions. It is well known that, in the absence of monetary transfers, Pareto efficient and truthful rules are dictatorial, while there is no deterministic truthful mechanism that allocates all items and achieves envy-freeness up to one item (EF1), even for the case of two agents. In this paper, we investigate the interplay of fairness and efficiency under a relaxation of truthfulness called non-obvious manipulability (NOM), recently proposed by~\citep{troyan2020obvious}. We show that this relaxation allows us to bypass the aforementioned negative results in a very strong sense. Specifically, we prove that there are deterministic and EF1 algorithms that are not obviously manipulable, and the algorithm that maximizes utilitarian social welfare (the sum of agents' utilities), which is Pareto efficient but not dictatorial, is not obviously manipulable for $n \geq 3$ agents (but obviously manipulable for $n=2$ agents). At the same time, maximizing the egalitarian social welfare (the minimum of agents' utilities) or the Nash social welfare (the product of agents' utilities) is obviously manipulable for any number of agents and items. Our main result is an approximation preserving black-box reduction from the problem of designing EF1 and NOM mechanisms to the problem of designing EF1 algorithms. En route, we prove an interesting structural result about EF1 allocations, as well as new ``best-of-both-worlds'' results (for the problem without incentives), that might be of independent interest.