Probing the membrane between public and private power

This dense piece is not a particularly easy read. But it will be of interest to those interested in deeply exploring the relationship between voting reform and property reform, and the tension at the heart of capitalist democracies.

In a democracy, every citizen possesses an equal share of the state’s coercive power. They are thus entitled to equal control over the state’s coercive apparatus through voting:

However, the same citizens possess unequal shares of the society’s total wealth:

And Why Do I Think We Can Improve Them Using Mechanism Design?

To clarify, I decided to put down some thoughts about the nature of institutions and the fundamental importance of vibrant, deep participation.

By: Matthew Prewitt (Co-Leader at RadXChange & Advisor @Amentum)

Institutions Are Not Just Tools

We commonly think of institutions as having importance in virtue of what they do for us. But their importance arises in equal measure through what we do (or don’t do, or are prevented from doing) for them. In other words, we are not merely institutions’ “consumers” — we are their producers, too. As consumers of institutions, we demand that they deliver us goods like justice, prosperity, and efficiency. …

Prototyping a New Way of Handling Property

What’s the Deal With Allocative Efficiency?

The market as we know it does a good job of rewarding people for the investments they make in things they own. But it doesn’t do a very good job of making sure that the people who own things are also the people who subjectively value them the most. This kind of inefficiency is called “allocative inefficiency.” Until fairly recently, there weren’t too many bright ideas about how to improve the problems derived from allocative efficiency, so it largely escaped attention. But new work on Harberger Taxation and licensing, in the book Radical Markets and beyond, has led to exploding…

When Should We Redesign Basic Institutions, and When Should We Defer to the Wisdom of Tradition?

For reasons elaborated in my previous writing, I believe that the ideas in Posner and Weyl’s Radical Markets constitute — if not a viable path toward a better society — then an important gesture in the right direction. Keen to test my enthusiasm, I have searched out critiques of my favorite RM ideas (COST / Harberger taxation on property, and quadratic voting or QV). Admittedly, there are important questions. For example, it is not clear that the COST bundling problem has been optimally solved, and the concern about increasing individuals’ cognitive loads is genuine.[1] But these concerns do not suffice…

A Philosophical Look at Harberger Taxation

Eric Posner and Glen Weyl’s recent book Radical Markets has stimulated a wide-ranging conversation about alternative property rights schemes. Inspired by economic thinkers such as Bill Vickrey and Henry George, the authors propose fundamental changes to property that would, in theory, increase economic efficiency while also sharing wealth more equally.

Their ideas have captured the imaginations of blockchain technologists in particular. That is because while it is hard to change real-world property law, it is easy to rewrite the rules governing ownership of crypto-assets. …

Rough Drafts of a Political Economy for the Blockchain Era

A new book by Eric Posner and Glen Weyl, Radical Markets, proposes policies aiming to make society both more market-oriented and more nearly equal. That will sound to many like a contradiction. But, while some of this book’s specific proposals are more attractive than others, they add up to a compelling case that libertarianism and egalitarianism are not natural enemies. This is no small achievement. Indeed, a convincing marriage of egalitarianism and libertarianism could be a game-changing political menu option. Also, it might be just what blockchain technologists have been looking for. More on that later, though.

To many, libertarianism…

A Closer Look at the Innate Governance Models of Blockchain-based Technologies

Go beyond pessimism and optimism

This article argues that blockchains can make the world better, but it isn’t all sunshine. Don’t be turned off. At the end of the day, we should not be optimists or pessimists. We should be realists, working hard to fill the empty half of the glass.

The Silicon Valley Dream is dead

Hear ye, hear ye! The Silicon Valley Dream is dead. What was the Dream? The Dream held that technology would “empower” regular people by “democratizing” everything and finally putting consumers first. It promised that last decade’s high-flying startups (Google, Facebook, Uber) were a new kind of corporation, more benevolent and human than their predecessors.

Matthew Prewitt

Lawyer, programmer, writer.

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