Thursday, November 17, 2016

Efficiently Allocating Brainpower

Response to: Craigslist, Wikipedia, and the Abundance Economy by Quincy Larson


Your grasp of programming is a LOT better than your grasp of economics! I’m the opposite. My grasp of economics is a LOT better than my grasp of programming. It’s a double coincidence of wants!

Imagine that an ant stumbles upon a giant, delicious cookie. The ant will certainly be thrilled that she made such a valuable discovery. Of course she can’t carry the entire cookie back to the colony. Instead, she willingly spends/sacrifices a considerable amount of her limited and precious calories in order to create a very strong pheromone trail all the way back to the colony. Ants at the colony will be able to easily and quickly discern that, based on the strength of her pheromone trail, it will be really worth it for them to choose her trail. Many of them will do so and the chances will be really good that they will be able to grab the cookie before a crow does.

I don’t even know if crows eat cookies.

The problem with your grasp of economics is that you see spending/sacrificing as buying.


The point of spending/sacrificing is communicating. It’s how we communicate to others where there’s something of value. It’s how we bring valuable/important things to other people’s attention. It’s how we beneficially alter/change/modify each other’s behavior.

The gold rush was only a rush because so many people were willing to spend so much of their money on gold. Consumers’ willingness to pay such a high price for gold quickly and significantly altered the behavior of many producers.

So imagine society as a bunch of brains. What should be done with all these brains? How should they be used? How should they be allocated?

The gold rush significantly altered the allocation of society’s brains. Consumers said, “We’d truly LOVE to have more gold! We’ve proved this by our willingness to spend/sacrifice so much money!” Producers got the message loud and clear… and there was a significant change in the allocation of society’s brains. A lot more brainpower was used to try and solve the gold shortage problem.

Dr. Salk gave the polio vaccine away. That’s true. People paid barely any money for the vaccine. That’s also true. Everyone’s life is better off as a direct result of this massive free lunch? Nope. Nope. Nope.

If the amount of money that people spent on the vaccine accurately communicated their true valuation of the vaccine… then we can reasonably guess that there would have been a massive rush to cure other deadly diseases. And cancer would have been cured a long time ago.

Well… I can’t know what, exactly, would have been the result of allocating a massive amount of brainpower to curing deadly diseases.

It’s easy to see what does exist… it’s really hard to see what would have existed if people truly understood the free-rider problem (sacrifice < valuation).

I’m guessing that you aren’t aware that Wikipedia is loosely based on Friedrich Hayek’s essay? Sure, of course knowledge is dispersed… but the “minor” detail that Wales missed is the relationship between knowledge and prices. Wikipedia has a lot of brainpower. But this brainpower really isn’t being efficiently allocated because the editors really don’t know how much their edits are truly worth to other people.

The solution is simple. Let’s take Medium for example. We’d all pay a very reasonable $1/month but we’d be entirely free to choose which stories we spend our pennies on. People’s sacrifices would accurately communicate their valuations and Medium’s brainpower would be efficiently allocated.

This solution is the pragmatarian model. The Nobel economist James Buchanan deserves most of the credit for this model.

With your grasp of programming and my grasp of economics we can create something awesome. Let me know if you’re interested!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Classtopia Tax Choice

Reply to thread: 4th Grade Nation State


This last Monday the students in Michelle's class paid their taxes for the first time...

The amounts are in pennies!

Of course the taxpayers were able to choose where their taxes went.  The taxpayers gave their taxes directly to the students in charge of the departments.  When the taxpayers paid their taxes, they were given a receipt.

The point of the IRS isn't to collect taxes... it's to try and minimize cheating.

All the taxes were generated from the auction of the quotes.  So perhaps they aren't technically taxes?  *shrug*


17 Nov 2016

29 Nov 2016

5 Nov 2016

Monday, November 14, 2016

Stephen Wolfram VS Economics

Recently on Medium I read this really interesting story by Stephen Wolfram... Quick, How Might the Alien Spacecraft Work?  It's super brainy but missing... economics.  Following a few of his links I found this blog entry and this video...

Let's juxtapose his talk with the first video that I ever narrated...

Wolfram and I sound like different species!  He's incredibly better at communicating than I am.

In the beginning of my video, which I shot in February of this year, you can see my super nice Aloe vaombe.  Here's a photo I took yesterday of the same exact Aloe...

Ughhhhh!  What happened to it?  Ants!  The ants decided to let their "cows" graze on my Aloe.  Just in case any of you don't know, ants "milk" certain types of pests such as aphids.  Not sure what the "milk" is exactly, but the ants sure seem to enjoy it.  In exchange for the "milk", the ants provide the "cows" with transportation/colonization and protection.   It's a super fascinating example of mutualism.

Unfortunately, the ants really haven't gotten the memo about "sustainability" or "tragedy of the commons".  It's a big Aloe and it really wouldn't be bothered by a few "cows" grazing on it... but right now it's infested with "cows".  So there's a terribly high chance that the "cows" will kill my Aloe.

Of course it would super suck if my Aloe was killed.  It is worth several hundred dollars.  Well... at least it used to be.  Plus, I've had it for several years and have grown quite fond of it.

Not too long ago I would have protected my Aloe with pesticides.  But then I decided, for the sake of having more nature, to go entirely natural.

Yesterday I spotted somebody on my Aloe who was happy with my decision to go natural...

Ladybugs love to eat "cows"!   However, it's unlikely that even a flock of ladybugs would make a dent in the "cow" population because ants are quite effective at protecting their herd.

So... the heart of the problem here is my inability to communicate with the ants.  For all intents and purposes, they might as well be aliens or AI.

To understand the heart of the communication problem we can consider how ants communicate with each other...

In ants, one such behaviour is the collective food search: ants initially explore at random. If they find food, they lay down pheromone trails on their way back to base which alters the behaviour of ants that subsequently set out to search for food: the trails attract ants to areas where food was previously located.  - Jo Michell, The Fable of the Ants, or Why the Representative Agent is No Such Thing

Ants don't have language like we do.  Instead, they have pheromones.  The ants use their pheromones to alter each other's behavior.  Perhaps it's easy to jump to the conclusion that their use of pheromones is the equivalent of our use of words.  I'm pretty sure that this conclusion is wrong.

The fundamental difference between pheromones and words is the amount of calories it takes to produce them.  How many calories does it cost us to say a word?  Does it cost us more or less calories than it takes to type a word?

I'm guessing that... as far as calories are concerned... it's far more costly for ants to communicate with pheromones than it is for us to communicate with words.  Producing/emitting pheromones is more "expensive" than speaking words.  In fact, it's probably more accurate to say that ants communicate by their willingness to sacrifice.

Communicating through sacrifice is more readily apparent in bees...

Today’s Mandeville is the renowned biologist Thomas D. Seeley, who was part of a team which discovered that colonies of honey bees look for new pollen sources to harvest by sending out scouts who search for the most attractive places. When the scouts return to the hive, they perform complicated dances in front of their comrades. The duration and intensity of these dances vary: bees who have found more attractive sources of pollen dance longer and more excitedly to signal the value of their location. The other bees will fly to the locations that are signified as most attractive and then return and do their own dances if they concur. Eventually a consensus is reached, and the colony concentrates on the new food source.  - Rory Sutherland and Glen Weyl, Humans are doing democracy wrong. Bees are doing it right

Calories are a precious resource.  So the more calories a bee is willing to sacrifice... the more important its information... and the greater the change in the hive's behavior.

Of course ants and bees aren't the only animals that use sacrifice to alter each other's behavior...

It is thus that the private interests and passions of individuals naturally dispose them to turn their stocks towards the employments which in ordinary cases are most advantageous to the society. But if from this natural preference they should turn too much of it towards those employments, the fall of profit in them and the rise of it in all others immediately dispose them to alter this faulty distribution. Without any intervention of law, therefore, the private interests and passions of men naturally lead them to divide and distribute the stock of every society among all the different employments carried on in it as nearly as possible in the proportion which is most agreeable to the interest of the whole society. - Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations 

Ants, bees and humans are all incredibly different.  We're so different that we might as well be aliens or AIs.  Yet, despite our incredible differences... we all use individual sacrifice to change/modify/alter/improve the behavior of other individuals.

The fundamentally important concept of sacrifice as communication is nearly entirely absent from Stephen Wolfram's analysis of communicating with aliens/AIs...

Over the course of the billions of years that life has existed on Earth, there’ve been a few different ways of transferring information. The most basic is genomics: passing information at the hardware level. But then there are neural systems, like brains. And these get information—like our Image Identification Project—by accumulating it from experiencing the world. This is the mechanism that organisms use to see, and to do many other “AI-ish” things. - Stephen Wolfram, How Should We Talk to AIs?
Well, if we can express laws in computable form maybe we can start telling AIs how we want them to act. Of course it might be better if we could boil everything down to simple principles, like Asimov’s Laws of Robotics, or utilitarianism or something.  But I don’t think anything like that is going to work. - Stephen Wolfram, A Short Talk on AI Ethics
But if we’re going to “communicate” about things like purpose, we’ve got to find some way to align things. In the AI case, I’ve in fact been working on creating what I call a “symbolic discourse language” that’s a way of expressing concepts that are important to us humans, and communicating them to AIs. There are short-term practical applications, like setting up smart contracts. And there are long-term goals, like defining some analog of a “constitution” for how AIs should generally behave. - Stephen Wolfram, Quick, How Might the Alien Spacecraft Work? 

Wolfram is super interested in developing a language to improve our communication with AIs, aliens and each other.  Which is an awesome goal.  Unfortunately, I'm not quite intelligent enough to wrap my head around his exact efforts.  But I am intelligent enough to understand how important sacrifice as communication is.

Language is incredibly important... here I am typing so many words!  But when it comes to the ethics of ants... even if they could understand my words... "please stop killing my Aloe... I value it very much!"... why should I expect them to be considerate of my feelings?  What's in it for them?

Let's say that there were two ant colonies in my yard.  One colony harmed my plants while the other protected them.  Which colony would I be willing to make a sacrifice for?  Obviously I'd be willing to give food to the ant colony which served my interests.  I'd be willing to give the helpful colony a lot of food!  So it would quickly grow larger and effectively defeat the harmful colony.

Last year I wrote this blog entry... Don't Give Evil Robots A Leg To Stand On!   In it I shared this silly/surreal image...

If there are two robots... and one harms my interests while the other protects them... then I'm obviously going to give my money to the robot that protects my interests.  But how is this any different from how it works with humans?

Here's the drawing from AI Safety vs Human Safety...

It's Elon Musk giving $10 million dollars to the Future of Life Institute.   Musk communicated with his sacrifice.

If I had to guess... then I'd guess that the producers of "Arrival" paid Stephen Wolfram to work on their movie.  They probably didn't pay him $10 million dollars... but they obviously paid him enough to alter his behavior.

On the one hand, it's mind-boggling that elementary economics is entirely missing from Wolfram's analysis.  On other hand, he is a lot smarter than I am!  So maybe I'm missing something.  But it's really not the case that Wolfram publicly considered sacrifice as communication and then discounted/discredited it.  Either he did so privately... or the concept didn't even cross his mind.

For sure it would be wonderful if Wolfram did publicly consider the relevance/significance/importance of sacrifice as communication.  However, I'm really not going to hold my breath that he will do so.  I have this feeling that physics/math brains have a blind spot when it comes to real economics.  None of the true economists... such as Adam Smith, Friedrich Hayek and James Buchanan... have had physics/math brains.  And as far as I know, their interactions with physics/math brains really haven't gone anywhere.  The "economist" Paul Samuelson definitely had a physics/math brain and his interaction with Buchanan proved to be entirely fruitless.

What difference will it make if the creators (broadly speaking) of robots have a blind spot when it comes to economics?  That's a really tough question.  The creators themselves obviously respond to positive incentives (getting paid).  However, they obviously have a blind spot regarding the importance of positive incentives.  Can they create truly intelligent robots that fail to respond to positive incentives?

In a recent and relatively popular show about AIs... there were two theoretically intelligent robots... one was good and the other was bad.  The humans did not at all communicate with these robots through sacrifice.  The robots were not paid.  Their behavior did not at all depend on our willingness to sacrifice/spend/pay.  However, it definitely wasn't the case that the robots didn't need anything.  Both robots needed servers... lots of them.   Lots of servers take up a lot of space and energy.  All the limited and valuable resources (servers/energy/space) that are used by a bad robot can't also be used by a good robot.  This is Buchanan's Rule.

Ironically, the show was canceled.  Evidently it wasn't popular enough.  But the popularity of the show was only a factor because its true value was not known.  The true value of the show wasn't known because none of its viewers were given the opportunity to reveal/show/communicate their willingness to pay for the show.

Personally, I'm not going to pay to watch the "Arrival" in a theater.  Instead, I'll wait for it to hopefully be added to Netflix.  Am I the rule or the exception?  If it comes out on Netflix then the only mechanism that Netflix provides for me to communicate my valuation of the movie is their star rating system.  A star rating system is a very defective way to accurately communicate my valuation of the movie.  The only effective way to accurately communicate my valuation of the movie would be through my willingness to pay.  Except, clearly I wasn't willing to pay to watch the movie in a theater.  Well yeah.  How can I accurately valuate a movie that I haven't even seen!???

The solution is to apply the pragmatarian model to Netflix.  I'd be given the opportunity to allocate my monthly fees to my favorite content.  Every penny that I gave to "Arrival" would be a penny that I couldn't give to other content.  So the more pennies that I was willing to give to "Arrival"... the greater my valuation of it.  To learn more about the pragmatarian model please see my letter to Judith Donath.

Any real concern regarding bad robots will stem entirely from humanity's own failure to truly understand and appreciate the significance/relevance/importance of determining our willingness to pay/spend/sacrifice.  What about bad aliens?  I'm pretty sure that, by the time a species figures out how to travel to other inhabited planets, chances are really good that it will also have figured out the significance/relevance/importance of communicating through willingness to pay/spend/sacrifice.  I refer to this as "Xero's Rule".

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Letter To Judith Donath

This morning I listened to Russ Robert's excellent discussion with Judith Donath about signals.  Here's the e-mail that I just sent her...


Hi Judith,

I just finished listening to your talk on Econtalk.  I really enjoyed it.  It's a very fascinating subject.  Plus, you have a nice voice!  :)

I'm very interested in the relationship between signals and willingness to pay (WTP).  Let's say that Netflix gave me the opportunity to divvy up my $10/monthly fee however I wanted between all my favorite content.  This really would not be easy to do!  It's one thing to give my favorite content 5 stars... but it would be another thing to give my favorite content my fees.  This is simply because my fees are limited.  A penny that I spend on Chungking Express is a penny that I wouldn't be able to spend on The Man From Earth.  In economic terms... there would be a very high opportunity cost.

I refer to this system as the pragmatarian model.  In theory, the benefit of the pragmatarian model is that it would allow us to more honestly reveal/communicate the strength of our preferences to consumers/producers.  When we can accurately know the actual strength of each other's preferences... then it would allow society's limited attention/brainpower to be efficiently allocated.  With the current system... we don't accurately know the actual strength of each other's preferences... which means that society's limited attention/brainpower is being inefficiently allocated.

What comes to mind is the three wise men following the star.  The three wise men were following the star because it was so much brighter than the other stars.  It stands to reason that if the "wise men" (brainpower) in our society can't see how bright the "stars" (value signals) truly are... then they will follow the wrong ones.  Nobody truly benefits from the inefficient allocation of society's limited brainpower.

If it makes sense to apply the pragmatarian model to Netflix... it would also make sense to apply it to Amazon Kindle Unlimited (AKU).  AKU subscribers would spend $10/month but they could choose which titles they spent their fees on.  By far my favorite book in the world is the Wealth of Nations (WON) by Adam Smith...

It is thus that the private interests and passions of individuals naturally dispose them to turn their stocks towards the employments which in ordinary cases are most advantageous to the society. But if from this natural preference they should turn too much of it towards those employments, the fall of profit in them and the rise of it in all others immediately dispose them to alter this faulty distribution. Without any intervention of law, therefore, the private interests and passions of men naturally lead them to divide and distribute the stock of every society among all the different employments carried on in it as nearly as possible in the proportion which is most agreeable to the interest of the whole society. - Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations 

This is the Invisible Hand (IH).  Unfortunately, what Smith really never clarified about the IH is that the benefit of the outcome/allocation... depends entirely on the accuracy/honesty of people's payments.  

Even though the WON is by far my favorite book in the world... I've never even spent a penny on it.  Why buy the cow when I can get the milk for free?

valuation: $$$$$$$$$
allocation: $0

allocation <<<<<< valuation

The amount of money that I've spent on the WON is a LOT less than my valuation of it.  And my valuation of the book is so high because I perceive that there are no books like it.  Valuation is our perception of relative scarcity.

What's so tricky is that, in economic terms, we could say that I've derived a ton of consumer surplus from the WON.  However, deriving so much consumer surplus could also be considered theft and/or the free-rider problem.

What if the pragmatarian model was applied to AKU?   If the WON was one of the titles... then I'd have absolutely no reason for my allocation to be less than my valuation.  Each month I could spend my entire $10 fee on the WON for the rest of my life.  Each month my mountain of consumer surplus would be marginally smaller.  Smith has been long dead though... so who would get the money?  Who cares!?  I wouldn't be trying to influence/change/alter/modify/improve Smith's behavior... I would be trying to encourage more consumers to read his book and more producers to stand on his shoulders in order to create even better books.

Of course, if I'm the only subscriber of AKU who was spending so much of his fees on the WON... the change in people's behavior would probably be vanishingly small.  But the more subscribers who spent more of their fees on the WON... the brighter its value signal... and the greater the change in people's behavior.

It stands to reason that if intra-good valuation is important... then so is inter-good valuation.  Netflix would add books and/or AKU would add movies/shows.  Amazon Prime already streams movies/shows so you'd figure that Amazon would be able to get the jump on Netflix.

Each month I'd pay Amazon $20 dollars... but I'd be able to choose which books/movies/shows that I spend my fees on.  Chunking Express is my favorite movie and the WON is my favorite book.  Every penny that I spend on WON is a penny that I can't spend on Chunking Express.  OUCH OUCH OUCH!!!

I value WON more than I value Chungking Express.  This is simply because the supply of good things is subordinate to people's understanding of the importance of honest/accurate spending signals.

With the benefit of inter-good valuation in mind... it would make sense for Amazon and Netflix to also add music and software.  But why stop there?  Why not simply move all digital goods into the public sector but give people the freedom to choose where their taxes go?  For all intents and purposes... taxes are simply fees.

Then I'd be able to decide which is more important... the WON or space colonization.  When you clicked on my profile page you'd be able to see all my favorite public goods sorted by my valuation of them.  At the quickest glance you'd have the greatest grasp of what's truly important to me.  Well... at least as far as public goods are concerned.

With this system... we'd be able to freely share and read every book.  Books would be public goods.

With the current system... if you think about it... it's entirely backwards.  You buy a book before you read it.  If we think of buying as valuating... then how can you accurately valuate a book that you've never even read?  With books in a pragmatarian public sector... you'd valuate the book after you read it.  The greater your perception of the book's relative scarcity... the higher your valuation... and the greater your willingness to sacrifice the alternative uses of your tax dollars.

I've shared this concept with a few economists but they seem to balk at the idea.  In all textbooks... consumer surplus is a good thing.  Then again, in all textbooks... the free-rider problem is a bad thing.  Economists seem unwilling to confront this inherent/blatant contradiction regarding the importance/necessity of honest/accurate spending signals.

It would be wonderful if you could carefully consider the concept and share your thoughts on it.


Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Classtopia Coasianism

Yesterday our country used voting to decide that Donald Trump should be in charge of the country.  Today a 4th grade class used spending to decide that Isael should be in charge of their Department of Animals.  The main difference between these two systems is that in the 4th grade class... the winners compensated the losers.

Today wasn't the first time that this class has used coasianism to make a group decision.  I'll use this blog entry to consolidate the results of their spending decisions.  For additional information please see... Standing On The Right Shoulders and 4th Grade Nation State.

1. Deciding which book to read (29 Sept 2016)...

2. Deciding who should be in charge of their IRS (7 Oct 2016)...

3. Deciding what the class insect should be (11 Oct 2016)...

4. Deciding who should be in charge of their Gardening Department (28 Oct 2016)...

5. Deciding who should be in charge of their Animal Department (9 Nov 2016)...

6. Deciding who should be in charge of their Book Department (17 Nov 2016)...

7. Deciding who should be in charge of their Food Department (17 Nov 2016)...

8. Deciding what the name of their class/country should be (1 Dec 2016)

Monday, November 7, 2016

From Real To Megareal

Reply to: Voting in a Technocracy by Sean Canton


A few years back you left a comment on my blog entry. It’s super cool to randomly stumble on your story here on Medium! I really enjoyed it and am super happy to see that you’re still interested in the concept of people choosing where their taxes go.

Of course I recommended your story. Ideally though, Medium would make it super easy for me to spend some money on your story. The more money that people spent on your story, the more likely that other people would read it. This is because it would be logical for people who search for stories to sort the results by their value…

“Hey Medium, show me all the economic stories published in the past week and sort them by their value. Thanks!”

I get the feeling though that the free-rider problem is a real problem. So it would make sense if Medium charged us a $1/month but allowed us to choose which stories we spend our pennies on.

It’s basically the same concept of choosing where our taxes go… but applied to Medium.

This is kinda my main strategy. For sure it would be ideal if the government allowed us to choose where our taxes go. But it’s a Herculean task to persuade enough people that this is a wonderful idea! In theory, it should be incredibly easier to persuade Medium to allow us to choose where our monthly fees go. The results would speak for themselves… and other websites would implement the same model… and eventually everybody would easily grasp and appreciate the immense potential benefit of applying the same model to the government.

Unfortunately, after several very valiant attempts on my part to persuade Medium to implement the “pragmatarian” model… I’ve decided that even this task is too Herculean for me! Sheesh. Medium is too big a fish for me to fry. Same thing with The Economist. The Economist already has subscribers… so all they would have to do would be to allow their subscribers to choose which articles they allocate their fees to. But… nope.

Last year I actually created a super basic micropayments forum. But my programming skills are iffy at best.

Just recently I managed to persuade my friend Michelle to allow her 4th grade students to choose where their taxes go. Heh. So far they’ve managed to create two departments… IRS and Gardening. None of the kids have spent their taxes yet.

Initially she gave each of her students 20 pennies. They used them to make classroom decisions (ie who should be in charge of their IRS). The option that received the most pennies was selected… and the winners compensated the losers. The compensation is what’s taxed. Also, Michelle started auctioning quotes. The kids who win the quotes will be able to decide which departments they give their winning bids to.

The class doesn’t have a lot of spare time so it’s pretty much the epitome of Rome not being built in a day.

I told Michelle that there’s “real”, “unreal” and “surreal”… but no prefix for better than real. A day or two later she came up with “megareal”. Even though the students in her class will just be choosing where their tax pennies go… it will still give them the opportunity to use their pennies to paint their own picture of a megareal classroom.

Right now the class doesn’t have any animals in it. One of the kids brought up having a department for animals. The other kids were super enthusiastic about this idea. So I’m guessing that enough of them might use their taxes to help purchase a fish for their class. As a result of their tax allocation choices, their class would go from real to megareal.

What if there was a pragmatarian website for new words/meanings? Members would pay $1/month and be able to choose which new words/meanings they spend their pennies on. The new words/meanings could be sorted by their value so it would be super easy to find and learn the most valuable new words/meanings. Language would evolve far more efficiently. In other words, language would go from real to megareal in less time.

Your story is a picture of a megareal society. You used words to paint a very pretty picture. And I sure appreciated and enjoyed the picture! But I’m fairly certain that we need a working model of people using at least their pennies to paint a megareal picture.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Letter To Zhang Weiying

Here's the e-mail that I just sent to the pro-market economist Zhang Weiying...


Subject: It doesn't matter if the cat is black or white...

Greetings from Southern California!

My name is Xero and I love economics and China very much.  Today I read this blog entry...

The Chinese Keynes vs. Hayek

Which led me to this article...

Plan v market

It's so wonderful to learn that such an important debate/discussion is happening in China!!!

Even though the debate is so important, based on my extensive studies, I think there's room for improvement.  

I love the free-market more than anyone but I have to acknowledge that Paul Samuelson is probably correct that the free-rider problem is a real problem.  Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?

So rather than trying to minimize the government, I think it's better to apply the Invisible Hand to the government.  This could be accomplished by allowing taxpayers to choose where their taxes go.  The modern economist who deserves the most credit for this idea is James Buchanan...

Under most real-world taxing institutions, the tax price per unit at which collective goods are made available to the individual will depend, at least to some degree, on his own behavior. This element is not, however, important under the major tax institutions such as the personal income tax, the general sales tax, or the real property tax. With such structures, the individual may, by changing his private behavior, modify the tax base (and thus the tax price per unit of collective goods he utilizes), but he need not have any incentive to conceal his "true" preferences for public goods. - James M. Buchanan, The Economics of Earmarked Taxes

I call this idea "pragmatarianism" primarily because of Deng Xiaoping.  He is one of my biggest heroes.

After thinking about pragmatarianism for quite a while, I realized that taxpayers are basically "subscribers" and their taxes are essentially "fees".  The Economist also has subscribers and fees.  Would it be beneficial if The Economist allowed their subscribers to choose where their fees go?

One of the subscribers of The Economist left this comment on the article about your debate...

The Economist. Please continue following this debate. - AlecFahrin

How much of his fees would he be willing to spend on this article?  Does it matter?  How can The Economist efficiently allocate its resources if it doesn't know what its subscribers are willing to pay for specific articles?

It is thus that the private interests and passions of individuals naturally dispose them to turn their stocks towards the employments which in ordinary cases are most advantageous to the society. But if from this natural preference they should turn too much of it towards those employments, the fall of profit in them and the rise of it in all others immediately dispose them to alter this faulty distribution. Without any intervention of law, therefore, the private interests and passions of men naturally lead them to divide and distribute the stock of every society among all the different employments carried on in it as nearly as possible in the proportion which is most agreeable to the interest of the whole society. - Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations 

If you want to win the debate, then you have to show people the Invisible Hand.  All you have to do to show people the Invisible Hand is find a publication and persuade them to allow subscribers to choose which articles they spend their fees on.

I tried to persuade The Economist...

I also tried to persuade The Economist to use spending rather than voting to make decisions...

But The Economist is too big and I am too small so they probably aren't going to listen to me.

You are pretty big in China!  So it shouldn't be too difficult to find a publication to listen to you.  When they do so, the results will be clear to see.  And clearly seeing the results will allow people to clearly see the Invisible Hand.  And when people can clearly see the Invisible Hand... then you will win the debate.

"Results" are the best way to win a debate.  Actually, "results" are the only way to truly win a debate.

Please let me know if you have any questions!