Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Helping the poor without breaking QIRE

Reply to reply: Dağhan Carlos E. Akkar

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Your goal is to help the poor. Which is a really wonderful and important goal! But you’re trying to help poor people by breaking Quiggin’s Implied Rule of Economics (QIRE)…

QIRE: society’s limited resources should be put to more, rather than less, valuable uses

When consumers spend their hard-earned money… they endeavor to spend their money on the most valuable options. This means doing their homework and shopping around. It doesn’t mean buying the first thing that they find.

So after doing lots of homework and lots of shopping around… lots of consumers decide to give lots of money to Bob. Evidently lots of consumers highly value how he is using society’s limited resources. Evidently they want him to be able to use even more of society’s limited resources. Evidently they want him to have even more influence over society’s limited resources. Evidently they want him to have even more power and control over how society’s limited resources are used.

Then what? Then you come along and decide that too many consumers gave too much money to Bob. So you… in your infinite wisdom… decide to override their spending decisions. Not fully override…. but partially override.

You don’t fully subvert the will of the people… you partially subvert the will of the people. As if their judgement is impaired… but not entirely impaired.

What do you with all the money that you take from all these consumers? Clearly you don’t give it to Bob. That would be strange. Do you give it back to these consumers? That would also be strange. Instead… you give it to poor people.

You give it to poor people… because… why? Because… you highly value how they are using society’s limited resources? Do you really though? In this scenario you really are not giving them your own hard-earned money. You’re giving them other people’s hard-earned money.

Maybe you’re under the impression that these consumers highly value how poor people are using society’s limited resources? So then you need to explain why these consumers chose to give their money to Bob rather than to poor people. You need to explain why you can’t simply persuade these consumers to give more of their hard-earned money to poor people. You need to explain why you have to rely on partially overriding their spending decisions.

In other words… you need to explain why it’s a good idea to break Quiggin’s Implied Rule of Economics (QIRE).

I’m pretty sure that you can’t explain why it’s a good idea to break QIRE. Nobody benefits, the poor least of all, when society’s limited resources are put to less valuable uses.

Fortunately for everybody, you can achieve your worthy goal of helping the poor without breaking QIRE.

The poor are poor because they are not doing valuable things with society’s limited resources. In some cases it’s because they are dumb. But I’m pretty sure that these cases are the exception rather than the rule. If you want to argue that these cases are the rule… then we can toss your argument for basic income into the garbage.

In order to help lift the poor out of poverty… you simply need to help them do more valuable things with society’s limited resources. This can be accomplished by making everybody’s valuations more accessible.

Right now, when I scroll up, here’s what I see…

“Most popular Medium stories tagged Inequality”


Medium, in all its wonderful wisdom, wants to show me three popular stories on the topic of inequality. It’s really easy to tell just how popular these stories are. The first story has 289 hearts… the second story has 131 hearts… and the third story has 90 hearts.

This is the seen. What’s the unseen? The unseen is how valuable these stories are. Medium makes it stupid easy to “like” a story… but it’s not nearly as easy to valuate a story. Medium doesn’t make it stupid easy for readers to give their pennies, nickles, dimes, quarters or dollars to their favorite stories.

What would happen if valuing a story was as easy as liking it? People’s valuations would be more accessible. The treasure map would become more accurate. This would help everybody, but especially the poor, use society’s limited resources in more valuable ways.

If Medium, Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, Flickr, Reddit, Quora and a gazillion other websites endeavored to make people’s valuations more accessible… then the treasure map would become far more accurate…. and everybody’s decisions would be far more valuable.

Let me try and make this concept as accessible as possible. Think about an Easter Egg hunt. A little kid picks up an old white piece of dog shit. You would probably tell the kid, “Hey little dude! That’s not an Easter Egg! This is an Easter Egg! See the difference?”

Here you are reading this story of mine. Do you think it’s an old white piece of dog shit? Or do you think it’s an Easter Egg? If you think it’s an Easter Egg… just how much do you value it? I’m not a mind reader. Nobody’s a mind reader. We can only know your valuation of this story if you communicate your valuation to us. And, as the saying goes… actions speak louder than words (Tabarrok’s Rule).

We will truly eliminate poverty when everybody does a much better job of making their valuations far more accessible.

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