Thursday, November 15, 2007

If Prosperity is so Important....

...why not go the whole hog?

I think I've been reading too many "Freakonomics" and "The Undercover Economist" type books recently. The latest in the series is "More Sex is Better Sex" where the author proposes certain improvements to our justice system. In the appendix of the book, he notes that David Friedman makes an even more radical proposal - that there should be many competing "microsystems" of justice as possible, with individuals subscribing to whichever justice system they prefer.

I say we go one step further.

If economic prosperity, minister performance and politics are so intertwined, I say we go the whole hog and allow a plutocracy in the truest sense of the word. Some points are:

  1. Everyone casts a DOLLAR vote for the candidate they want in power. Top 84 nominees takes all.
  2. All monies will be paid to a central depository. Electors can deposit cash any time they wish. Elections are triggered whenever the pot hits 10 million, and electors have 1 month where they can deposit monies from the day the pot hits 10 million.
  3. The winners of the vote has to fork out the cash. This cash goes to the people who have voted, equal to the amount they were willing to fork out.
  4. The excess in the pot goes to the lowest, I dunno, 10th percentile in terms of income.
  5. NONE of the money involved in this transaction will be taxable. Ever.
  6. MP's and Ministers get no cash pay. Instead, they get a basket of properties reflecting the overall economic prosperity of the country.
  7. Anyone becoming an MP and Minister must disclose all financial interests for the period they remain as MP's.
I sounds incredibly chaotic, but there's an elegance to what I'm proposing. What the system essentially does is to turn government over to the highest bidder. If no one likes the government, they can always be overthrown when the pot hits 10 million - which is a really small sum.

To maintain power, one must always be leeched of money to the lowest 10%, which will eventually accumulate enough to vote credibly as a collective body. Furthermore, to maintain power, one cannot just please the ultra-rich, cos a sufficiently big pool of middle class people will be sufficient to trigger an election.

The idea here is that you don't derive ANY benefit from being in government apart from your ability to make the economy grow. In short, you -will- be putting your money where your mouth is. If you can make the economy grow bigger than the money you've forked out, congrats - you've enriched yourself and everyone else in the process. If you can't, someone else will raise the 10 mil and overthrow you.

So, what do you think?


Ballista said...

Three problems I can see.

1. Lag. It takes either too long (or too short) to change government. Remember that unless you have regular periods of government, a lot of things with long horizons will just go undone.

2. Economics. What effect will it have if a government in power makes policies that make your $10m worth a lot more? Then whether other kinds of policy are good or bad, people will be reluctant to gamble the ever-rising value. Especially if they start treating government as some sort of arcane investment.

3. The weakest spot is the disbursal mechanism. It's probably harder to locate the lowest 10% than the highest 10%, as it tails off to zero and possibly includes people who could never benefit (the type that bankrupt themselves frequently, never claim their CPF etc).

There are probably other problems, but I think my main point would be this: the more complex the world, the less possible it is that direct mechanisms and clean algorithms will be able to solve the mess. This doesn't of course preclude the possibility of solving some aspects of the mess. But it does lead one to automatically be suspicious of simple-looking solutions like yours... heh heh.

Anthony said...


1. Lag is a problem inherent in any system involving change of government, not just mine. Mine is at least responsive to market forces - if market forces demand that there are regular period of government, there -will- be regular period of government. If it dictates that there will be an overthrow, there WILL be an overthrow.

2. Government IS an arcane investment - my method merely brings that to the forefront, rather than some background issue. On top of that, it forces us to internalise external effects of government, plus compensates others for being forced into accepting choices others make for them.

The 10 mil is an arbitrary figure. I suspect the best way to do it is to match it to some kind of price index to account for real purchasing power, discounting inflation. Another incentive to govern well.

3. The disbursal mechanism admittedly needs work. I am willing to concede that there should be some factor of creditworthiness involved. Ruin your credit rating and you get a weighted index against you.

My point for postulating this theory is threefold:

(1) running for government should itself be a market of competing forms of governance

(2) government should be responsive to market forces and not be insulated against them

(3) government should not have the power to create information disparity.

Given these three basic principles, I can think of several models. This one particularly appeals to me in a "give-as-you-take" sort of way.

Ballista said...

The problem really is that you have made it a plutocracy without a consistent standard or an ideal market. Admittedly, these are perpetual problems of economics.

But what makes you think that converting human endeavour or desire or ideation into variable indices and the using markers of dubious value would make your government work?

1. Lag: yes, the market can decide to pay for a good government. It can also decide to pay for a bad government, which at this point may as well be defined as one which destroys the plutocratic system. See the problem?

2. With the complexity of the modern world, you can bring the issue of the arcane nature of government to the forefront, but that won't make it any less arcane; there are still too many factors to monetarise satisfactorily. In fact, the present kinds of systems are better in at least one way: they allow opinions to have political weight, thus avoiding the middle step of converting opinions to money as a way of marking their weight.

3. When you say government should not have the power to create information disparity, you ignore the fact that this naturally arises from complexity and size. The government can accentuate or diminish it, but never eliminate it. It can of course create more. At which point, the disbursal becomes possibly moot, as the money you get back may no longer have the value you put in BECAUSE you changed the government, thus changing the factors that made OTHER people value your money a certain way.

See the big issue now? Information is the key, perception is the problem, and nobody quite knows what the lock to be manipulated is...

Money is just a MARKER.

Anthony said...

On the point of government size, I've read that the ideal size of government should be matched to a population of about 2 million, and that is a problem of all governance, not merely a plutocracy.

Without going into the other problems, I will point one out specific to the Singapore government - the monetization of opinion.

Funny you should bring it up because that was the lynchpin of my "go the whole hog" argument about Singapore. If the focus is so blatantly on economic growth, why shouldn't we monetise opinion?

As for HOW to monetise opinion, I'm beginning to suspect that there is a way to monetise everything. Certainly it will be unsatisfactory, but as a common marker and standard for opinion.

Think about it this way - the normal "price" for swinging the wrong way in opinion polls is a government voted out of office. Here, there are no lobby groups, no opposition, no change of government. Wherein is the weight of opinion?

Markets, on the other hand, provide a common ground, and a common ground that the Singapore government seems to like so much.

Ballista said...

1. Monetarisation

Of course there is a way to monetise anything. But that's because monetisation is a way of allocating points. It is a form of value-allocation based on quantitative units. Unfortunately, money has greater variability and depends on more kinds of information and psychological nuance than numbers. It is an elaboration of number. You might as well use barrels of oil, flowers, breadtalk specials...

A true plutocracy must have some form of wealth mechanism that is less mutable. That is why most posthumanist SF uses energy units instead. Fixing conditions so that energy units are worth exactly the same is easier than fixing conditions so that monetary units are worth exactly the same. The problem doesn't quite go away, though. Time also has value, since work done can be measured in energy delivered per unit time.

However, such a plutocracy is too powerful to be governed...

2. Governance

Tsk. When government guarantees the value of monetary units, then using monetary units to modify government behaviour is not possible. Perfect markets are assumed to work, but that's purely theory since there are no perfect markets anyway, once you assume the fact of governance. A perfect market is self-governing, or it wouldn't be perfect.