William Spencer Vickrey, 1914-1996, was a Canadian economist settled in the United States and Professor of economics at Columbia University. He shared the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences in 1996 with the Scottish economist James Mirrlees, for their contribution to the economic theory of incentives under asymmetric information. His contributions to the economic theory have always tried to answer needs and gaps of it, and his economic philosophy was influenced by J. M. Keynes.
Vickrey claimed that information asymmetries’ occurred often and made decision taking harder. In situations where an agent had a better knowledge of information, he could use it to his advantage. Vickrey carried out researches about auctions, raising designs and developing ways to increase its efficiency. His theories are nowadays applied and used by the world´s central banks when new debt auctions are held. He gives name to the Vickrey auction. His ideas are reflected in his key paper “Counterspeculation, Auctions, and Competitive Sealed Tenders”, 1961. Vickrey’s work on information asymmetry in the area of fiscal policy, gave way to James Mirrlees’ theories about revealed preferences.