🙋 Two years ago, Glen Weyl and Eric Posner jointly published the Radical Markets, which triggered extensive discussions and responses. According to Glen and Eric, when it comes to public affairs, people tend to disagree and refuse to share information they keep to themselves. If a well-designed market mechanism is in place to make more people willing to express their true ideas in public, then the communities can work together to find more proper solutions.
🖖 Based on the idea of promoting public interest with a market mechanism, they selected social issues from five different fields and came up with five proposals through the mechanism design. Now the introduction of a traditional Chinese version of the book, in my opinion, is meaningful for Taiwanese readers.
Promote liquidity via an auction system
💰 Why is it meaningful? Take the Common Ownership Self-Assessed Tax (COST) of Chapter 1 for example. People may attach to their properties any value they want, but they must pay a certain percentage of tax every year. Once someone offers to purchase the properties according to the value they set, the property owners cannot refuse it.
📝 No doubt, Taiwanese people cannot be more familiar with such practice because it extends what’s proposed by Sun Yat-sen—”Equalization of land rights.” This concept holds that all landowners should assess the increased value of their land deriving from the common development of a community, and announce the land value they assess every year.
📈 If the estimated value is on the high side, the landowners need to pay higher taxes, which is taxation according to the declared land value. If the assessed value is lower than the actual reasonable value, the government may purchase the land at such value, which represents the government purchase of land according to the declared land value.
🔨 However, it is the government that decides whether or not to purchase the land according to the declared value. If the government does not take action, the land value will be meaningless. Yet, with a COST, anyone may purchase it at the declared price. Therefore, it becomes an auction system. Because of fixed taxes and the market mechanism, the possessors are willing to disclose the real value of their properties, thus facilitating the sufficient application of properties and also preventing stockpiling.
A new type of democratic governance
🗳️ Another mechanism that operated in Taiwan is Quadratic Voting (QV) mentioned in Chapter 2. QV was initially designed to solve the following problems: the universally adopted majority rule is likely to cause strategic voting and thus cannot reveal the true preferences of individuals. Besides, the “one man, one vote” system cannot effectively demonstrate the strength of opinions.
🎨 The QV system, in which more credits need to be spent for more intense votes, allows the marginal utility of every vote to be exactly equal to the marginal cost. Then, it gives people greater motivation to vote according to their actual preferences to avoid wasting costs. Furthermore, the discussion of public topics will have a higher quality.
🇹🇼 Take Taiwan’s Presidential Hackathon for example. Since 2019, we have started using QV to vote for proposals. Each participant will get 99 credits. One vote costs one credit; four credits will buy two votes, and nine credits will buy three votes. In other words, the cost of a number of votes is its square in credits.
🗽 We noticed that during the voting of the Presidential Hackathon people tried to avoid concentrated votes and polarized results, although they allocated their votes. It’s because they have limited credits, and the cost of ballot stuffing is quite high.
🇺🇸 Outside Taiwan, there’s a case that readers may learn about. In 2019, the House of Representatives in Colorado adopted QV to vote for the budget distribution. This set a milestone for the new type of democratic governance. The good thing about QV is that senators find such an outcome acceptable because senators prefer voting for several different budget bills. That way, even if only one or two bills are passed in the end, they will be deemed to have contributed to it.
Labor Cooperative of Data
💡 Through the connection between equalization of land rights and COST, and the implementation of QV by the Presidential Hackathon, you can see that social and democratic system innovation is a common thing in Taiwan.
🔢 In my view, another practice that will probably be experimented with in Taiwan is “Data as Labor” discussed in Chapter 5. Cooperatives and mutual aid societies are well-established traditions in Taiwan. It’s better to bring together a group of workers to determine what different tasks to undertake, rather than have a boss to decide everything. It is why the cooperative was established in the first place. The benefits created by people with different expertise are certainly greater than those by a single person. Besides, it can increase the average income per person. This is the so-called labor cooperative.
🌹 The concept of “Data as Labor” is similar to the labor cooperative. For example, the AirBox devices that represent the cooperation of the Academia Sinica and non-governmental organizations and that can monitor air quality are distributed across Taiwan via public adoption. The collected data is announced on the air pollution observation website (https://airmap.g0v.tw/). Therefore, the public may keep abreast of the air quality of Taiwan through another channel without completely relying on the monitoring station of the Environmental Protection Administration. As you can see, when data labors are organized, their value is infinite, and they will be utilized in varied ways.
🌐 The prerequisite for such practice is that all individuals regard themselves as the producers of data and that they have the right to copy, modify, or withdraw their data contributions at any time. In this way, a new cooperative relationship will emerge. For instance, due to the recent demand for online purchase of medical masks, many people have downloaded the mobile application of the National Health Insurance Administration and found that they may have access to their mask collection records whenever they want to. On this basis, we can design a data collaborative. For example, individuals can dedicate the uncollected masks to countries in need, with priority given to their medical personnel. The records on the mobile application will be the proof for the Ministry of Foreign Service’s humanitarian assistance efforts. Hence, people provide direct feedback by sharing their data, which shows the significance of “Data as Labor.”
🤓 What’s introduced above are three methods from the book. Also, there is the Visas Between Individuals Program (VIP) that improves the issue of migrants through the sponsoring system and the method of prohibiting institutional investors from diversifying in the same industry to avoid the monopoly of capitalists. All these approaches deserve to be studied in depth by all.
🌱 As far as I can see, what the world can learn from Taiwan’s experience is that it carries out field experiments and turns these theories into practical tools. From the Taiwan Scholar Association and the Management Commission to the enterprises and government departments, as long as they have a new organization or project, we can apply and even improve these participation mechanisms.
💯 For example, Glen set up RadicalxChange (RxC), a non-profit organization, to spread these approaches, and I was invited to serve on the board. At the quarterly board meetings, we vote for the proposals in the form of QV. Each board member has 100 voice credits. Anyone may propose a motion and everyone can vote for or against that motion. The remaining credits can be used next quarter on a discount basis. In this way, it not only ensures that the approved proposals represent the true intention of the board members but also facilitates discussions of higher quality.
😺 RxC, based on the Radical Markets, keeps studying how to use these mechanism designs to address the problem of resource allocation that both the market and the government fail to resolve. Vitalik Buterin, the founder of Ethereum and also the board member of RxC, developed the quadratic funding (QF), using the QV system.
🎓 This novel funding mechanism is designed to solve the free-rider problem that often occurs in the process of using public goods. It will go through the Round 5 experiment on the blockchain platform called Gitcoin. Interested readers may refer to the essay “Liberal Radicalism: Formal Rules for a Society Neutral among Communities,” that was jointly written by Vitalik Buterin, Glen Weyl, the author of this book, and Zoë Hitzig, a Ph.D. in economics at Harvard University, and the “Review of Gitcoin Grants Quadratic Funding Round 4”, an analysis of Vitalik Buterin according to the Gitcoin’s experiment.
🚸 Throughout history, new ideological trends have emerged to boost social innovation in all ages and bring forth theories and tools that serve as an important means of improving human situations.
🏡 After sorting out Taiwan experience, I realized that the Radical Markets has not just provided a batch of brand-new tools. More importantly, these seemingly radical proposals in the book are more like the activation of the traditional concept of Great Unity.
📜 They encourage all people to properly apply the production results and wealth instead of hiding them for their own purposes. This echoes with what’s described in the World of Great Unity, “People hate to see resources lying idle or cast away, but they do not necessarily keep them for themselves.” Individuals use what they have to offer substantial feedback on and contributions to public topics. This manifests the spirit of “They hate not to make use of their abilities, but they do not necessarily work for self-interest.”
✍️ For Taiwanese people, all these embody the classical value that already exists in their community rather than being radical approaches. Hence, I sincerely hope that the publication of the traditional Chinese version can spawn more intellectual inquiries and discussions and start a new chapter of the World of Great Unity with the classical value of the twenty-first century.