Thursday, February 16, 2017

Bryan Caplan and Foot Voting

Over on Medium I just finished writing something about foot voting.  It got me thinking about the economist Bryan Caplan.  He's collaborating with Zach Weinersmith on a graphic novel about immigration.  How cool is that?  It's crazy cool.

Here's a thought for Bryan Caplan and anybody else who happens to read this.

Lately I've been writing a few things over at Medium.  Medium is packed with interesting and thoughtful people and it's really easy to interact with them.  Let's imagine that Medium implemented some terrible policy.  Then what?  For sure people would complain... and if that didn't work then they'd simply leave.  They'd foot vote for other websites... like WriterBeat.  It would be the epitome of brain drain.

Foot voting for a different website is sure easier than foot voting for a different country.  This might sound like a painfully obvious fact with little significance or value.  But if you really think about it... then it should super amaze you that economists don't frequently use websites to safely test different economic systems.

We should all be amazed that Bryan Caplan isn't collaborating with Evan Williams to test our current system of government.

Think about how relatively easy it would be to test our current system.  Members of Medium would each pay $1 dollar a month and they'd have the opportunity to elect one person to decide which stories to spend everybody's fees on.  My guess is that the members would be very unhappy with how their representative was spending their fees.  But rather than waiting around for a few years to elect a new representative, they'd simply foot vote for another website.  Because... it would be super easy to do so.  What would this mass exodus say about our current system of government?

God I'd love to see Caplan trying to pitch this economic experiment to Williams.  How would Williams respond?  "Our current system of government is good for determining the supply of important things... but it would be terrible for determining the supply of stories."

As far as I know, there isn't a single website that's based on our current system of government.  Does that say something about our current system of government?  Or... are people simply missing the opportunity to have an awesome website?  Or... do different economic rules apply to websites?

In a story on Medium I mentioned that Alex Tabarrok is collaborating with the founders of LBRY.  As far as I know, he didn't recommend that the founders base their website on our government's current system.  That's not a surprise.  So I really didn't even think about it.  But now that I am thinking about it... I gotta admit that it's disappointing!

Wouldn't you love to see a website that's based on our current system of government?  The key difference with the website is that it would be so very easy for the members to leave.  This difference would be so delicious.

Of course I'm assuming that people would leave... in droves.  But if they didn't?  Well... if, rather than suffering brain drain, the website experiences brain gain... then not only would this be evidence in support of our current system of government... it would also demonstrate a great new system for websites to use.

Illustrating our beliefs is wonderful.  Testing our beliefs is even better!

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