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Transdimensional Justice Monster

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From Wikipedia, 2108 C.E.:

For the band, see Transdimensional Justice Monster (band).

The phrase “transdimensional justice monster” refers to an as-yet-hypothetical device for ensuring that a newly-created universe is ethical. Interest in the development of a functional TJM has increased in recent megaseconds, largely due to rumors that the moratorium on the creation of gladiator universes may be extended to market universes.

Gladiator universes, such as the universe underlying our own base reality,* are universes in which sentient beings with non-identical goals exist and compete, whose ultimate mechanism for distribution of utility between beings is the use of force. Research into the ancient problem of welfare comparison between sentient beings has produced several conceptions of non-gladiator interpersonal justice; the TJM is merely a continuation of this endeavor.

Market universes attempt to resolve the problem of distributing scarce resources among sentient beings by requiring mutual consent for transfers. Markets may be seen as an early human attempt to simulate the TJM; this hypothesis is supported by the reification of the market in the figurative term “the invisible hand.”

Recently, so-called Rawls universes have been proposed as a more ethical alternative to market universes. To create a Rawls universe, a universe creator would be required to enter his own universe and live out his life inside it, but would be assigned randomly to a body within this newly-created universe. Critics argue that this does not ensure justice, as requiring a universe creator to be born into a single life in his universe fails to ensure that he adequately internalize the aggregate risk faced by his entire created population over all its generations. In addition, the particular values of the universe creator are unlikely to adequately predict the values of new beings in new universes.

The TJM avoids the problems of market universes and Rawls universes alike. A transdimensional justice monster envelops and, in a sense, becomes all the experiencing beings in a given universe at once. While the TJM feels the happiness and pain of all its sub-beings, it also retains the capacity to experience their loneliness and alienation as they each experience it. Since the TJM experiences everything that its sub-beings do, when the TJM makes a transfer of utility between its sub-beings, this transfer is by its nature just. The TJM even ensures intertemporal justice, because by being transdimensional, it can adjust utility between beings alive at different times throughout the life of the universe.

The TJM gives a population of experiencing beings an important characteristic of a single individual: the ability to fairly distribute hardship and pleasure among its members. A single individual might do this by transferring weight from one foot to another and adjusting itself until its position is comfortable. A TJM may do this in much the same manner – by transferring utility-bearing items or services from one sub-being to another, or even by allowing a miserable sub-being to die.

In practice, this last option (causing miserable sub-beings to die) has proven the greatest barrier to producing a functional TJM. No universe simulation equipped with a TJM has yet resulted in a universe with any sentient beings left alive. However, universe creation enthusiasts are hopeful that this problem can be resolved, and a sustainable, just universe can be created in which all experiencing beings achieve a standard of utility above death-desiring misery.


* As our base universe arose through stochastic processes, it is not affected by the moratorium.

Named for the 20th century American philosopher John Rawls, who proposed an influential model for distributive justice. Rawls utilized the concepts of the original position and the veil of ignorance to imagine a society genuinely based on the consent of its members. Putative features of this hypothetical purely-consensual society could then ethically be applied to actual universes to make them more just. The modern conception of the Rawls universe represents, at best, a caricature of Rawls’ method. In a true Rawls universe, all potential beings would need to consent to be part of the universe prior to its creation, blind to their particular future situation.

Written by Sister Y

February 24, 2011 at 8:15 pm

Markets Are Ungrounded

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There is no truly free market, in the sense that it is absent from state regulation. State regulation is inherent in the notion of a market. The absence of state regulation is anarchy, in which markets do not function.

The idea of a free market is a popular one. It’s a nice idea – it allows us to lay all kinds of complicated ethical questions at the feet of consent. But, as I have mentioned in the past, it’s not “consent all the way down.” A market must have regulation to exist, and regulation by any means but unanimous consent is inherently non-consensual.

So what does the state have to do in a market economy?

1. The state must define who is a market participant.

In other words, the state must decide whose choices and property rights must be respected.

Who may participate in the market? Who may buy and sell, or refuse to buy or sell? Who may own property?

Are men and women both proper market participants? Are children? Adolescents? The elderly? Deceased people (through documents or proxies)? Unborn people (perhaps through imaginary proxies)? Future people? Possible future people?

Are animals? Dogs? Chimpanzees? Cattle? AIs?

Are people with severe developmental disabilities proper market participants? People with moderate developmental disabilities? People with thought disorders? People with mood disorders?

Whose welfare or utility are our rules designed to maximize?

To some degree, the state must also define the unit of a market participant. Is it a single individual? Can it be a family? A business partnership? Is a single individual over his entire lifespan a market participant, or are young and old versions of the same person separate market participants?

2. The state must define what counts as property, and what belongs to each market participant.

Is one’s labor one’s property? Does one own one’s genetic endowment?

Can people be property? Are our children our property? Our spouses or sex partners? The sexual services of our sex partners? The promised future sexual services of our sex partners?

Are animals property?

Does one have a property interest in one’s feelings?

Are our bodies our property? Our organs? Blood? Semen? Ova? The years of our lives? What about antibiotic resistance – is the capacity for antibiotics to prevent infections our property? Is our appearance our property? Are the feelings that we produce in others our property?

Do we own our attention?

Is our general good behavior (not stealing, not raping) our property? Are things we have been promised our property?

Do we have a property interest in having enough air to breathe? Water to drink? Food to eat?

Can land be owned? If so, does a land owner own the wild animals on his land? The air above his property? How high up?

The related issues of (a) who is a market participant and (b) what is property are especially convoluted when we consider that some entities may be classified as either a market participant or a piece of property – or have elements of both, as with the current position of children and the historical position of women.

3. The state must define appropriate remedies for enforcing property rights.

Once the state has defined who may own property and what property may consist of, it must define what may happen when a property right is violated. Money sanctions? Specific performance? Self-help? Death or loss of a member by the breaching party? Imprisonment?

This is an especially complicated question, as the state may define different sanctions as appropriate remedies for different sorts of property violations.

4. The state must define what requires consent.

The state must define what counts as a transaction requiring consent. This is related to the above questions about what counts as property, what belongs to a person, and who is a market participant. If my money is my own, taking it from me requires my consent; but if it is not my own, it may be taken without my consent. And if I am not a market participant, my consent is not required in any case.

What counts as consent? Is affirmative consent required, or merely a failure to opt out? Must we consent to be advertised to? When can consent be presumed?

When can a substitute for consent be used? What substitutes are appropriate?

How far into the future may consent operate? Can it operate into the past?

When is apparent consent not real consent?

5. The state must define cheating.

There are many flavors of cheating that tend to undermine the market. Open up an introductory contract law text book to get an idea of the issues that must be regulated.

Is fraud okay? Accidental misrepresentation? How careful must an assertion be? What disclosures are required to make a transaction consensual?

What about coercion? Undue influence? Mutual mistake?

Is exploiting the cognitive biases of one’s contract partners “cheating”? Exploiting the naivety of a contractual partner? Exploiting his illiteracy? His poor understanding of the contract’s language?

Do the motives for putative cheating matter? What are the relevant states of mind?

And perhaps most importantly . . .

6. The state must define the procedure (if any) for changing the rules of the market.

As I hope I have shown, social norms affect and are affected by market rules. But social norms – and material circumstances – change, and with them, perhaps the rules of the market should change. How can this be accomplished? Majority rules? Unanimous consensus? Should there perhaps be . . . a market for establishing market rules? (And, if so, what are the rules of the meta-market?)

The State Has A Lot Of Work To Do

It’s not simple. It can’t be “free.” And it can’t be based on pure consent.

Written by Sister Y

January 11, 2011 at 8:27 pm

Posted in economics, markets, rights