Why Radical Markets?

Frequently Asked Questions (General)

Q: Isn’t this just rehashed communism?

A: Communism as normally understood means central planning, and we oppose central planning.


Q: Isn’t this based on an atomized view of the individual à la Milton Friedman?

A: No, collective decision-making is key to our view, and we celebrate it as much as private decision-making.


Q: Don’t your proposals put people under a lot of cognitive load?

A: The market system and democracy that we have already put people under a heavy cognitive load. Compared to those systems, some of our proposals lighten the load (e.g., mostly eliminating debt and not forcing people to vote on every issue even when they don’t know anything about it) while others make it heavier (e.g., assessing personal valuations for a wide range of goods and fine-tuning voting preference intensities). Because our system creates a stronger social safety net, however, it eliminates the most catastrophic effects of miscalculations, while allowing individual talents to express themselves. The extent to and way in which our proposals put excessive cognitive demands on people, in a way that outweighs benefits, can only be determined empirically, through testing and trial and error.


Q: How can ideas this radical come about without a revolution?

A: Many radical ideas (like the progressive income tax, democratization in many countries and the social welfare state) have come into fruition through peaceful, incremental change.


Q: Aren’t you just total utilitarians who care nothing about other moral values?

A: Utilitarians care about moral values, but in any event we don’t think our proposals can or should be defended on strict utilitarian grounds. We defend our proposals from a variety of moral perspectives, such as the value of freedom as non-domination, justice as fairness, helping people develop as moral beings, enabling autonomy and promoting social progress.


Q: You talk about breaking up power, but don’t you empower the mechanism designers?

A: Consider the difference between a village economy where a dictator hands out goods to people, and a village economy governed entirely by the market. The type of continuing discretionary power in the hands of one person or a small group is troublesome, and the target of our criticisms. A system of rules, administered by a decentralized group of people (judges) or mechanically (as in the case of blockchain, in theory), raises fewer concerns. It is true that the people who set up the rules in the first place must have the power to do so, but that is unavoidable in any system and if the rules are fairly simple and easily communicated (as ours are) there is a better chance of everyone in society reflecting on whether they are fair.


Q: Aren’t these ideas wildly pie-in-the-sky and never going to happen?

A: All of them are already making progress.  COST is being implemented for digital assets in Ethereum and seriously considered by FCC for spectrum and UK government for oil drilling and airplane landing slots.  QV is being implemented all over the blockchain and for public opinion polling.  The VIP already exists to some extent in Canada, and is being expanded there.  Antitrust ideas have triggered major lawsuits and investigations, especially in Europe.  The first data labor union was formed in Holland by a Dutch MEP and is influencing strategies of major companies and start-ups.  If anything, things are moving too fast.  Book is written in an optimistic, idealistic tone, but that is a spur to experimentation not an impediment.

Q: Wouldn’t the continual auction destroy all stability and investment?

A: Yes, which is why it is a sketch but not the actual idea we propose; see Chapter 1.


Q:  Is inequality really such a clear indicator of monopoly power?

A: Not always or in all circumstances, but the recent pattern of slow growth and rising inequality seems to line up with this.


Q: Aren’t populists rebelling against markets, not wanting more?  How can your ideas address the populist threat?

A: Much populist thinking has arisen in recent years in response to adverse economic and political conditions, as it has in the past. By improving both the economic and political system, we hope to steer reformist energies in more productive directions.

Q: How are the principles of the COST and QV consistent?  What things should be treated as public goods and which as private goods?

A: COST is a means of allocating assets among “individuals”, while QV is a principle for governing “groups” like corporations, governments or voluntary organizations.  However, often the “individuals” participating in the COST will be themselves organizations internally governed by QV: corporations, governments and non-profits will possess assets and pay a COST on them.  At the same time, many organizations may internally use the COST to allocate assets among internally competing uses.  Thus in practice we imagine COST and QV to be overlapping complementary principles of competition and collaboration, not clearly marked off ideas that apply to completely separate domains.


Q: What do you think about a good like health care?  Should this be provided by competitive markets?

A: Personally Glen believes that insurance is largely a social good, because of adverse selection problems, and should probably be provided more-or-less by a single payer system.  However, many services bought by this single-payer system and many choices of which services to use can be provided competitively through cost sharing with individuals who are ensured.  In any case, our system does not prejudge any of these issues as QV can be used to vote on collective organization while delegating to the COST areas best covered by private competition.


Q: Wouldn’t a COST on human capital be tantamount to slavery and doesn’t your even considering it prove you are incurable utilitarians?

A: We don’t propose a COST on human capital but instead are trying to explore the limits of its logic.


Q: Your analysis leaves labor/human capital out of the COST.  Why?

A: A COST on human capital is extremely challenging to work out in a reasonable way, because people care not just about whether they work but where and how.  Unless such conditions can be clearly specified and the price put on each of them taxed in a way proportioned to the efficient chance an individual should do such a job, a human capital COST is unworkable.  We have not figured out how to square this circle.  Furthermore, most wealth, inequality and hoarded assets come from capital not human capital at present, so our priority is there.


Q: What is the role of the nation state in your world?

A: Our proposals do not challenge the status of the nation state and in fact the immigration proposal is based on its persistence.  However, Glen believes our ideas would gradually erode the dominance of the nation state and move towards more of a federal configuration where regional and global levels of governance become more legitimate and accepted.  This would happen through trading of vote credits in QV, through more exposure via VIP and through a deepening of trade via the COST, as well as through data as labor solidarity across countries and the internationalization of antitrust to address market power. Eric disagrees.


Q: What is your vision for the path to the implementation of your ideas?

A: Each idea can be tested using small-scale experiments.  But this is only one aspect of the long-term strategy.  The ideas also need to diffuse to the broader public.  People need to begin experiencing the ideas in their everyday lives.  Politicians can begin to embrace the framework and rhetoric we promote, while limiting the scope of actual idea implementation to areas that are reasonably contained.  And the experiments that do occur offer a platform for those interested in longer-term activism to build off of and to engage their attention as they begin to form communities around it.

Q: Aren’t computers already powerful enough, or nearly so, to run the economy?  Why not pursue that?

A: Not close enough!