Saturday, May 16, 2015

The Forced-Free-Rider Problem

Reply to: The Reality of War Prosperity by Gina Arnold


The unseen is really difficult to see! Imagine if we replaced the green “Recommend” button with four coin buttons… penny, nickle, dime and quarter. If I clicked the quarter button then a quarter would be instantly transferred from my digital “wallet” to your digital “wallet”. And the value of your story would increase by a quarter. Then we would be able to search Medium for “Mises” or “Bastiat” and sort the results by value. Whose story would be the most valuable? Can you guess how valuable it would be? $10 dollars? Maybe the author would have received a total of $10 dollars for their story? That $10 dollars should be in their pocket right now… but it isn’t. This is the unseen.

Here on Medium we don’t know what the demand is for stories related to Bastiat or Mises. Is this a problem? Does the demand even matter? Do we really need to see and know the demand for stories in order for the supply of stories to create the maximum possible value?

The management of a socialist community would be in a position like that of a ship captain who had to cross the ocean with the stars shrouded by a fog and without the aid of a compass or other equipment of nautical orientation. -  Ludwig von Mises, Omnipotent Government

Medium is a socialist community. There’s no compass. There aren’t any micropayments. There should be, there could be, but there aren’t.

Maybe “Recommendations” adequately function as a compass? How could they when the person “spending” them isn’t sacrificing anything in the process? Value is a function of sacrifice. Sacrifice is how we communicate value. If all it takes is one click to sacrifice a penny to a story… if you don’t click the penny then either you don’t value the story or you’re a free-rider. Right now I’d click a quarter button for your story. But I can’t… because there isn’t one. This is the forced-free-rider problem.

A while ago I wrote a lengthy story about how Medium, and other sites, should facilitate micropayments. Obviously Medium didn’t get the message. So I recently launched RudeBagel. It’s the first micropayments forum. You should join! Then we can see how many Medium writers we’ll have to poach before Medium starts facilitating micropayments. After that happens we’ll watch the dominoes fall one by one until there’s only one place left that doesn’t have a compass… the public sector. But by then everybody will understand the value of a compass.

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