Internalizing Externalities

[[epistemic status: I present a rough outline, and appreciate all feedback, with the expectation that details require nuance and testing before action.]]

TL;DR—I seek the most complete policy for the internalization of externalities; I do not expect Donor NFTs to capture the entire scope of the externalities we face. Fundamentally, that internalization must act through some form of governance; we cannot expect each transaction’s values to be wholly aligned for all participants on their own. In contrast, the preponderance of value, for each constituent in a governing body which internalizes externalities, may give government-regulated-internalization traction.

An Example of A Cure?

Back in the ’90s, researchers identified that the high rate of accidents at intersections was partly diminished when the stoplights BOTH spent a few seconds glaring red, together. It was a simple fix to cut vehicle mortality by a quarter. Yet, not many mayors were reading those research publications, nor did they have the funding or motive to take action. It took a while for the stoplights to change.

Yet, what if you had written-up a Proposal: “Convert the StopLights Across America!” with an estimate of the value, cost-structure, and a ‘business plan’ for the activity? If only there was a place, like a Stock Exchange, or Kickstarter, where investors could bid toward that Proposal! Like Kickstarter, your money only moves into the Proposal once it hits its funding requirement. Unlike Kickstarter, you aren’t rewarded with just a mug or a toy. It must have a path to generating a return in order to pull investors toward it. The people who run the operations of the Proposal could try working-out some payment plan with each mayor, but that’s a fool’s errand. Instead, let a wealth tax absorb enough to pay the investors a return, as a percentage of the measured benefit to the public of that proposal.

So, if the government assessed that the total value to the public of all those avoided accidents was $10 Million/​yr, then they would need to increase their rate of wealth tax that year by, for example, $3 Million. (A 30% return to the investors who funded public benefits seems fine to me.) That pile of money goes to pay all the normal costs of the operations of the proposal, (no CEO bonuses!) while ALL remaining cash goes to the investors as a dividend. Considering that the proposal would only have operating costs for the few years required to convert stoplights, while that benefit would be paid-out to investors year after year, the returns from funding such a Proposal would be competitive with business investments. That is the key concept: Helping others can be SO EFFECTIVE, that investors would WANT to put their money toward it. And, if the hope is to ONLY help in those ways which are most effective, then this naturally aligns the incentives of the investors toward that most-effective good.

“What about corrupt government?”

Yes, that’s basically the argument against everything, even though the government is already corrupt and ineffectual, so most changes would still be an improvement. I would rather dive into details of accountability, without expectation that “we would be able to pass that into law, here in the US”. Rather, I presume that we will have numerous opportunities to try our own variations of governance in a few decades, regardless of political inertia among land-dwelling nations. I plan for when we can make that move, because that is a far more likely future than one where the US changes course. (“Sea-steading” waits only for the cost of materials/​fabrication and demonstrations of reliability, before the largest migration in human history.) In that light, yes, we can pile-on transparency and accountability, homomorphic encryption of person data, instantaneous updates from the whole public without waiting for elections, verifiable functioning of protocol and legislation (or else it is dropped!) all to help limit and dissuade corruption. We certainly can’t make all that happen in this country, but we know what we could do, once we have somewhere else to go.

The core concept I cling to is that, unlike mere privatization or government-awarded contracts, a Market for Externalities keeps a check upon the quality of the service provided, and the tax is fixed as a percentage by legislation. With government in the role of diplomat, justice, legislator, AND the research body that accounts for Proposals’ impacts, then the remaining tasks of bureaucracy could be devolved into a set of Proposals. Insofar as we can account-for and price-in externalities, we improve our allocation and decision-making, NOT just for philanthropic dollars, but for the whole pool of investments.

Where would you like more detail? What concerns do you have? What else could help? Thanks!