Category Archives: economics

The original Jubilee

In my original article on Jubilee I hinted, by the choice of the name Jubilee (and via a link), that my ideas were inspired by those in the Torah, specifically in Leviticus chapter 25.  On Sunday this week, I spoke at my church about that chapter.  I stayed away from my own ideas about how a modern Jubilee-like system might work (which you can read about here),  focusing instead on some features of the system described in the Bible.  You can listen to what I said, courtesy of my church’s website.

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Efficient allocation of mathoms in a Bad-Santa-like game

Suppose you’re at a mathom party and it turns out that some of the mathoms are popular, and multiple people want to claim the same mathoms. How can you fairly decide who gets each mathom, and ensure the allocation isn’t wasteful?

Well, a standard economic answer is to auction them to the highest bidders, but then the mathoms aren’t really gifts any more. And what if the process of allocating the mathoms could itself be enjoyable? Continue reading Efficient allocation of mathoms in a Bad-Santa-like game

Rationing for libraries

When a library finds that more than one person wants to borrow a particular book, they have to have some way of rationing access to the book — deciding who gets to borrow it first, and for how long. At my local library, they achieve this by lending books for three weeks at a time, and preventing you from renewing the loan if someone else has requested the book. If lots of other people have requested the book, I think they get to borrow the book for up to three weeks each in the order they placed their requests.

But what if the first person to borrow the book reads a few pages, gets bored, and doesn’t look at it again till it’s due back? Perhaps they intend to read the rest of the book, but never get around to it. Everyone else waiting to borrow the book might place a greater value on having earlier access to it than the first borrower places on keeping it for the full three weeks. Could the library arrange for less wasteful rationing of access to their books? Continue reading Rationing for libraries

A responsible transitive transactions protocol

A while ago, I wrote about transferring money through chains of IOUs. I’ve since discovered that such transfers are now sometimes being called “transitive transactions”.

So, for example, if Alice wants to pay Frank $600, but Frank doesn’t trust Alice’s IOUs, they might find a path through existing trust relationships, so Alice gives Bob an IOU for $600, Bob gives his own IOU to Charles, Charles gives one to Denise, Denise gives one to Edith, and Edith gives one to Frank. Alice has paid $600, Frank has received an IOU for $600 from someone he trusts, and everyone in between has given an IOU for $600 and received an IOU for the same amount from someone they trust.

A problem

But Charles will be upset if he thinks the transaction is going ahead, and gives his IOU to Denise, only to discover later that Bob didn’t agree to this transaction; and Denise will be equally upset if Charles then demands his IOU back, but she’s already given hers to Edith. Or, Alice will be upset if she gives her IOU to Bob, but discovers later that Frank never received the money, because Denise, who neither Alice nor Frank know or trust, ran off with the money. So how do all these people coordinate, so that they all agree on whether or not the transaction is going through? Continue reading A responsible transitive transactions protocol

An explicit social contract and non-coercive law enforcement

why should i obey the law? it's part of the social contract / i didn't sign any social contract / you have to it's the law

In philosophy, the idea of a social contract is one way of justifying the government’s authority over individuals. The idea is that you’ve somehow agreed to submit to the authority of the state in return for the state’s protection of your rights (or at least, those of your rights that you haven’t surrendered by submitting to the state’s authority).

But where can I find the terms of this social contract? What if I don’t want to agree to it? What happens if I break the contract? What happens if the government breaks the contract?

Could we come up with an explicit social contract that answers these questions? Would most people actually want to sign it? Would other people have a meaningful choice not to sign it? I think so. Continue reading An explicit social contract and non-coercive law enforcement

Betting against public goods that you want

In my first article about funding public goods, I mentioned in passing the Wall Street performer protocol, which involves bonds that pay out when a certain public good is provided. In this article, instead of talking about them as bonds, I’m going to think of them as bets — bets on whether the public good will be provided.

But the curious thing is this: people who want to help fund the public good do so by betting that the good won’t be provided. How does that work? Continue reading Betting against public goods that you want

Funding public goods

Public goods in economics are those things that are desirable, but neither rivalrous nor excludable. That is, one person’s enjoyment of the good doesn’t detract from anyone else’s enjoyment of it, and it’s impossible to prevent people who haven’t paid for it from enjoying it.

For the purposes of this article, the main example of public goods I’ll be referring to is that of free cultural works, such as open source software and public domain audiobooks.

Obviously, a lot of these public goods are being produced, sometimes for altruistic reasons, sometimes for fun, and sometimes because it makes economic sense for the producer of the good, even if no-one else who will enjoy the good contributes.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with altruism, but people can only afford a certain amount of it, so perhaps we could have even more public goods if we could figure out an efficient way of funding them. How well can we do? Continue reading Funding public goods

Population density in New Zealand

As a side-effect of preparing to investigate the relationship between population density and location value, I’ve produced a map of population density in New Zealand according to the 2006 census:2006-census-land-population-density (Click on the map for a slightly larger version; likewise for all the others below.)

Before I get on to explaining this, and what I intend to do with it, I’d better give some credits: Continue reading Population density in New Zealand

Welcome, visitors from LibriVox!

If you’ve come here from my recent LibriVox recording of Progress and Poverty, welcome! I hope you enjoy the audiobook.

And if you haven’t come from there, check it out; it’s a really interesting book.

A lot of what Henry George discussed in that book chimes with what I’ve written about Jubilee and class servitude. I don’t agree with everything he wrote, but I learnt a lot from reading it. Continue reading Welcome, visitors from LibriVox!

Pacifism in Jubilee

The guaranteed minimum income in Jubilee opens up an interesting possibility for self-defence: If Stolypin (for example) threatens to invade, Jubilee should put up signs along the routes the soldiers are likely to use to approach Jubilee. The signs should be in the languages most easily read by Stolypinites (or their mercenaries), and should say “Jubilee welcomes Stolypinites! We will pay you to live here peacefully.”. And then Jubilee should allocate the new immigrants the same guaranteed minimum income all the other Jubilants get.

Would it work? Continue reading Pacifism in Jubilee