Sunday, January 25, 2015

Rescuing Robin Hanson From Unmet Demand

Robin Hanson has a BIG problem.  He wants to read books that nobody's writing!

Industry-Era Action Stories

Let me tell him something...


You're in a boat, surely you aren't the only one.  I'd definitely read a book or watch a movie, or two, or three...or a few shows...about the first few foreign firms to make significant profits in China after my hero Deng Xiaoping opened the doors.

The challenge here is that it's kinda difficult to know exactly how many other people are in the same boat.  We can't buy a product that doesn't exist!

But what if people could choose where their taxes go?  Let's pretend that there was a department of books (DoB).  Because good books are a public good...right?  Surely they have all sorts of positive externalities.  Especially the types that don't require the murder of trees.  Digital books sure aren't rivalrous.

Taxpayers could give the DoB some of their taxes and the DoB would use the money to pay authors to write books that everybody could read for freeeeeeeee!

Of course taxpayers wouldn't all want to sponsor/read the same books.  So when you went to the DoB website to make a tax payment, you could check mark which types of books that you'd want your money to be spent on.  

You, me, and all the other cool kids would check mark "builderism".  And voila!  Pretty soon our digital libraries would be jam packed with exciting and educational stories about where better options come from.  Movies and shows would surely follow.

What would stop the DoB from spending our money on teen vampire novels?  Well...nothing.  Except for the fact that we probably wouldn't give the DoB any more of our taxes if it did so.

In the movie Field of Dreams the motto was, "if you build it they will come".  With pragmatarianism the motto would be, "if you fund it they will write/build/make/produce/supply it".


While writing this I had the vaguest recollection that I'd written something kinda similar to David Friedman.  So I searched for unmet and found my comment on this post of his...

The Killer App for Google Glass


What if the government ended up being responsible for creating the app? Then the usual suspects could list it along with the internet.

So is it market failure that the private sector hasn't already created this app?

See...I'm pretty sure this is an example of why pragmatarianism is superior to anarcho-capitalism. With anarcho-capitalism...the demand would exist but the supply wouldn't reflect it. It might eventually reflect it...but who knows when. But with a pragmatarianism system...if there was sufficient demand...a government program could be created to work on the provision of whatever it was that people were willing to spend their taxes on.

The government would be the embodiment of demand unmet by the private sector. How could that not be better than anarcho-capitalism?


It would also be nice to have an app that allowed us to talk with our pets.

Perhaps this is the best passage for clarifying demand...
There are multitudes with an interest in peace, but they have no lobby to match those of the 'special interests' that may on occasion have an interest in war. - Mancur Olson 
It's easy enough to give them a "lobby".  Jack Haldeman shared the solution in his short science fiction story..."We the People".

I suppose that it wouldn't be impossible to create a site kinda like that allowed members to sponsor specific types of content that they'd like to see created.  But it's a bit of a buzzkill to make the content excludable in order to avoid the free-rider problem.    

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