I talked last week
about the need for more radical liberal ideas and promptly came across a new book, Radical Markets
, by Eric Posner and Glen Weyl. This excellent Econtalk podcast
with Weyl provides a good summary. The authors argue that a lot of the problems that people have with capitalism are actually problems of market design
- and the solution is not fewer or more regulated markets, but more and better designed ones.
Lest this seem like standard libertarianism by the back door, their first example is a radical Georgist
-inspired property tax. Owners would set any value they liked for their property and then would be taxed a percentage of that figure annually - but they would also have
to sell the property if they received an offer at that price (which creates a disincentive to lowball). This would, Posner and Wehl argue, ensure resources were put to their most valuable uses. They also suggest that even a relatively low tax like this could be used to fund a universal basic income, which we discussed last week. There’s lots more where that came from.
There are some good reviews by Robin Hanson
and, interestingly, Vitalik Buterin
, one of the founders of Ethereum. He’s particularly intrigued by how some of these ideas intersect with smart contracts and decentralised institutions. My main critique is that a lot of these new markets would impose a heavy cognitive load - but perhaps combined with Albert Wenger’s idea of the “right to be represented by a bot
”, that’s a solvable problem. At minimum, it’s highly engaging, and I recommend the book (or at least a preview
) as a fun way to challenge and update your mental models.