Bill Harrison


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Can we redesign Money to better reflect our values in the digital age? How would you do it?

Money is a vote. Money is a direct, legally backed claim upon the allocation of scarce social resources. That's what a vote is. Voting is merely an indirect claim upon scarce social resources, and voting fails due to both a principal-agent tension and the speed/relative strength of money.

This is why we live in oligarchies and not democracies - the rich simply have more say as to the allocation of scarce social resources, and the poor have almost no say. A positive feedback loop makes the rich richer, and because the poor cannot financially compensate those who help them, altruism toward the poor is punished in our society...yet, each of us WANTS to be altruistic. That is human nature.

Therefore, Money is a Law, because it governs how we must live. We have created a society in which capital = fitness, and thus we are socially selecting at the upper echelons of power psychopaths who will do anything for money. There is no cost to their fitness if they exploit people or pollute or waste money or hoard money, and so their insane behavior continues.

The legal system (1) protects the wealthy, who can afford the best attorneys, buy politicians, and manipulate the tax code, and (2) takes violence off the table so the poor can't retaliate, when the rich commit daily acts of violence against the poor. Yet, game theory suggests that both punishment and reward are necessary for cooperation to exist.

So, as an example, can we redesign money to create "digital financial karma" to capture the "externalities" of people's behavior? Could we each digitally destroy money, at the same rate (we could have the option to pay $1 per day to destroy $2 of someone's ill-gotten money, depending on how much deflation we want)

Could we decentralize the Federal Reserve's creation of money (votes) so that it is no longer created for central banks and lent back to the public? Could we digitally give everyone, say, $3 (votes) per day to buy FOOD so they can have healthy brains? Why not?

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    Apr 4 2011: "The American People will take Socialism, but they won't take the label. I certainly proved it in the case of EPIC. Running on the Socialist ticket I got 60,000 votes, and running on the slogan to "End Poverty in California" I got 879,000. I think we simply have to recognize the fact that our enemies have succeeded in spreading the Big Lie. There is no use attacking it by a front attack, it is much better to out-flank them." - Upton Sinclair

    Consistent cash transfers to the people at the very bottom of the economic pyramid, which would allow them to buy food that would otherwise go to waste = libertarian socialism. How is that not a win for everyone?

    Cash transfer programs are already working in the US with the EBT/SNAP programs -

    Electronic cash transfers have already been shown to be effective in Brazil:

    Equality of opportunity = equal access to basic nutrition, which is obviously not met.
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    Apr 4 2011: We declared that humans have the right to food in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article 25. We produce more than enough food to feed all of humanity. Yet, millions of tons of food go to waste every year because people cannot afford it. Unless we can actually give food that would otherwise go to waste to the people at the bottom of the socioeconomic pyramid (I would argue, in the form of non-perishable cash), the UDHR Article 25 right to food is literally meaningless.

    Obviously, market failure is the norm, not the exception, and fixing the market failure will require conscious action on all our parts.

    Another quote from the Stiglitz article:

    "Alexis de Tocqueville once described what he saw as a chief part of the peculiar genius of American society—something he called “self-interest properly understood.” The last two words were the key. Everyone possesses self-interest in a narrow sense: I want what’s good for me right now! Self-interest “properly understood” is different. It means appreciating that paying attention to everyone else’s self-interest—in other words, the common welfare—is in fact a precondition for one’s own ultimate well-being. Tocqueville was not suggesting that there was anything noble or idealistic about this outlook—in fact, he was suggesting the opposite. It was a mark of American pragmatism. Those canny Americans understood a basic fact: looking out for the other guy isn’t just good for the soul—it’s good for business."
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    Apr 4 2011: So, I'll admit that framing the problem as "money is a vote" is a little strange.

    However, there are two mainstream perspectives which make this less crazy. First, Nobel prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz has an article in Vanity Fair discussing how income inequality is bad for everyone, including the wealthy 1% who own 40% of the nation's capital::

    " Wealth begets power, which begets more wealth. " - Joseph Stiglitz

    "Economists long ago tried to justify the vast inequalities that seemed so troubling in the mid-19th century—inequalities that are but a pale shadow of what we are seeing in America today. The justification they came up with was called 'marginal-productivity theory.' In a nutshell, this theory associated higher incomes with higher productivity and a greater contribution to society. It is a theory that has always been cherished by the rich. Evidence for its validity, however, remains thin. The corporate executives who helped bring on the recession of the past three years—whose contribution to our society, and to their own companies, has been massively negative—went on to receive large bonuses. In some cases, companies were so embarrassed about calling such rewards “performance bonuses” that they felt compelled to change the name to “retention bonuses” (even if the only thing being retained was bad performance). Those who have contributed great positive innovations to our society, from the pioneers of genetic understanding to the pioneers of the Information Age, have received a pittance compared with those responsible for the financial innovations that brought our global economy to the brink of ruin.'

    And Newsweek had an article (which includes some findings by TEDster Esther Duflo) about cash transfer programs helping the world's poorest people:
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    Mar 15 2011: To frame this question another way, the rationale for separation of powers was that the US Founding Fathers didn't trust power concentrated in too few hands. Yet, there is no corresponding check upon the power of concentrated wealth.

    In the 1950's, it used to be that extremely high top marginal tax rates (around 90% on income over the equivalent of 2 million) aligned the interests of the wealthy and the rest of the country.
    See Malcolm Gladwell:

    However, this outcome seems unlikely given that the mainstream media is controlled by both the wealthy and the stupid (non-mutually exclusive).

    So, if the wealthy will see to it that they won't be taxed even at Clintonian levels, the legal system prevents accountability for wealthy bankers who can afford the best lawyers, and POTUS Obama cannot take on Big Money by himself, what is the check upon the power/greed/oligarchy of the wealthy?