Radically Rethinking Economic Policy
Sunday, Jan. 7, 2018 10:15 AM - 12:15 PM
- Chair: John Roemer, Yale University
A Welfarist Role for Nonwelfarist Rules: An Example With Envy
AbstractI propose and formalize an argument for why economists working in the welfarist normative tradition should include nonwelfarist principles in how they judge economic policy. The key idea behind this argument is that the world is too complex, and our ability to model it too limited, for us to fully trace a policys effects on welfare. Nonwelfarist principles can be valuable to a welfarist facing this limitation if they act as informational proxies, carrying accumulated knowledge about the effects of policy that otherwise cannot be considered. This argument can be seen both as extending a familiar logic for rule utilitarianism beyond the realm of individual ethics and as a specific version of a broader argument made for centuries by theorists from Hume to Hayek.
I also provide evidence of an example in which real-world policy judgments are consistent with this theoretical argument. Results from a novel U.S. opinion survey show that approximately half of respondents reject redistribution driven by envy even though it generates direct utilitarian gains. That share rises as the role of envy is made more salient, consistent with respondents using nonwelfarist principles to encode concerns about the unobservable consequences of policy.
Quadratic Voting: How Mechanism Design Can Radicalize Democracy
AbstractCan mechanism design save democracy? We propose a simple design that offers a chance: individuals pay for as many votes as they wish using a number of "voice credits" quadratic in the votes they buy. Only quadratic cost induces marginal costs linear in votes purchased and thus welfare optimality if individuals' valuation of votes is proportional to their value of changing the outcome. A variety of analysis and evidence suggests that this still-nascent mechanism has significant promise to robustly correct the failure of existing democracies to incorporate intensity of preference and knowledge.
Should We Treat Data as Labor? Moving Beyond "Free"
AbstractIn the digital economy, user data is typically treated as capital created by corporations observing willing individuals. This neglects users' role in creating data, reducing incentives for users, distributing the gains from the data economy unequally and stoking fears of automation. Instead treating data (at least partially) as labor could help resolve these issues and restore a functioning market for user contributions, but may run against the near-term interests of dominant data monopsonists who have benefited from data being treated as "free". Countervailing power, in the form of competition, a data labor movement and/or thoughtful regulation could help restore balance.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- H1 - Structure and Scope of Government
- P5 - Comparative Economic Systems