Here’s why taxation is compulsory…
“To suggest that people actively signaling their interest is not “in any meaningful sense…

You really like to misunderstand an idea to the detriment of your own argument. It’s like watching a puppy with a bone and he only knows one way to chew it.

Taxes are compulsory because otherwise a populace wouldn’t pay them.

It’s that simple.

You can drag in bad public good theory all you like, but essential facts remain.

Let’s say that you ask me how much I value a story of yours. Will my answer determine how much money I spend on your story? If so, then I’ll have an incentive to pretend that I value your story less than I truly do. If not, then I’ll have an incentive to pretend that I value your story more than I truly do.

Why would I ask you how much you value a story of mine?

If you’re trying to set up a description of a suggested system where Medium effectively homogenizes two signals, whether or not you like a thing and whether or not you like to thing enough to pay for it, then yes — in that case you’re have an incentive to use the single signal that you have as little as possible.

In the case where those signals are not homogenized, your assertion that you have an incentive to pretend that you value my story more than you do is false. You have absolutely no reason to under- or over-signal in that case. You can signal just as much as you like. At that point, what we have actually implemented would be a weak pricing system, albeit with only three prices: nothing, “I’d like to see more of this,” and “I think this person needs to be paid.” But that’s not what you’re saying. (A more detailed analysis would actually point out that the two positive signals communicate a set of different states and don’t necessarily exist as a short spectrum, but I’ll leave that as an exercise for the reader.)

You’ve already run with false axiom, let’s see where that goes.

Let’s say that I subscribe to Medium but I can “earmark” my fees to my favorite stories. If you ask me how much I value a story of yours… then there’s no point in pretending that I value your story less than I truly do. If my true valuation of your story is $3 dollars but I pretend that my valuation is $1 dollar… it’s not like I can take the $2 dollars that I “saved” and spend it on groceries. All I can do is spend it on stories that I value less than yours. Which I would have absolutely no incentive to do.

You might have incentive to spend your value on stories that you value less than mine.

  • You might want to support other writers as well.
  • You might want to support the expansion of other topics.
  • You might want to support curational groups who provide value by reading all the articles you don’t have time to and picking out the ones which they consider sharing to be worthwhile and you agree that they’ve got a track record of making good decisions.
  • You might like multiple kinds of things so that “better” is really not an interesting measure; I might write interesting reviews of new video games, and someone else might write really good poetry, and a third person might write really good and insightful articles on the modern military situation in the world — and they all have value to you.

So you’re wrong.

You can make references to Samuelson and Buchanan all you like, but it doesn’t make their positions meaningful in the context of what we’re talking about.

If you want to say “let’s talk about Medium’s subscription value as if it were a tax,” you need to say that. You need to establish what you mean to communicate. Because if you did so, I would just cross my arms and say “taxation is theft,” give you a dirty look, and understand exactly why what you’re trying to say is wasted effort.

Are you trying to say that the $5 minimum idea could be thought of as a tax? Because a sensible person would rebut that it would be equally viewable as a monthly infrastructure fee, at least in part, and we have plenty of successful examples of those in the public marketplace.

But yes, this is simply more pretentious references to economists who are talking about something completely unrelated to what you’re talking about. You’re not even talking about “good signaling;” you’re not talking about signaling at all.

Let me reiterate my argument. Subscribers should…
have the option to spend their fees on their favorite stories
be able to see exactly how much money has been spent on a story
have the option to sort stories by their value

As far as we know, point one is, in a very vague and undefined sense, somewhat what Medium is promising. We don’t know in what percentages, we don’t know how the distribution will actually be handled, and we don’t know if that will be through an editorial selection process or informed by direct signaling. If you’re suggesting that whatever portion of the Medium subscription should be directly apportioned to writers and curators that the user desires, then we are in violent agreement. I don’t trust the Medium editorial staff to distribute the money I might provide the platform to writers and curators which pursue my interests. Letting me decide where that money goes is far more useful to me.

It’s your points two and three where I draw the line. It might, as a creator, be nice to see exactly how much money has been spent on a story, just as it is nice to see how many people have hearted it. That provides a feedback loop to me as a creator, and that’s a net good. Awesome.

It is of very vague interest to me as a consumer, effectively only telling me that some other people might agree with my preferences — but they might not. They might be affiliates of the writer or the writer themselves spending money on the story to make it seem more valuable than it actually is. I can’t know that. It’s impossible for me to know that. That money might be provided by people who love stories that I would hate because our interests do not coincide. Just because someone else spends money on a thing doesn’t mean that I will like it. Just because a thing has been popular among some group of people does not mean that I will like it.

In light of that, your point three is absolutely and utterly wrongheaded. Since the indicator of how much money has been spent on a story contains no value to me as a consumer, providing that information to me as a sorting index is wasted effort. It’s meaningless. What do I care any more that some article has had money thrown at it than whether some article has had hearts thrown at it? Neither one of those signals is actually relevant to me.

And this is where your entire understanding falls down, because you can’t seem to get beyond the idea of one kind of very limited signal carrying useful information to all viewers. We know that’s not even true in functional economies of goods outside of Medium. Why would it be true of the goods available inside Medium?

Not the least problem here is that you have completely missed one of the most important things about markets and signaling: variable prices. Prices are how that feedback loop gets closed. Prices tell the consumer what the creator believes the value of their product to be. Some prices of the same product type are high, some are low, some quality is high in a reified sense, some quality is low. The consumer picks from an array of products provided, chooses a price which they are willing to pay for the specific product offered, and then does so. This sends a signal to the creators who are contending in the marketplace of what value the consumer believes their products, in aggregate and in specific, are worth.

Implementing a pricing system on Medium would be madness. It would be madness for the reason which I dealt with at length in my last response and which you ignored utterly to continue rambling in a useless direction. I, in my role as consumer/reader, am more valuable than the writers in this context. It’s my attention and my time which is in short supply. There are more articles than anyone could be expected to read, even with such narrow filtering as I’ve implemented for what Medium should be showing me. If we add in the fact that Medium is really competing not only with itself but all the other sources of articles on the Internet that I could be reading (whose price is effectively nil), the competition becomes much harder.

Again, I reiterate, if you stop with your point one above we are exactly on the same page. I would totally agree that Medium should take its subscription fees and apply them to articles which I recommend/heart every month. In fact, simply doing that might make me more inclined to subscribe, if only because I believed it would be supporting curators and writers whom I wish to actually reward. I would really like to have a separate signaling mechanism to say “I recommend this” and “I’d like you to pay this guy,” but I could live with conflating those two.

The rest of your argument is just crap, though. You don’t actually understand economic signaling. You ascribe far too much value to a single signal which has no reason to be relevant to an individual.

Stop while you’re ahead. Take your win, reformulate your ideas, and incorporate the understanding that different actors in a marketplace have different desires and intents. Otherwise you’re just going to be talking crap into the air, because I’m done with this.

Or, as they say in the community, “GL; HF.”