Often we're confronted with situations where some finite amount of public resources must be allocated or prioritized across a group. Market fundamentalists often argue these situations should be handled by private markets, where prices and willingness to pay can act as the system for prioritization. However, this is often an ethically fraught idea, since the inherent inequality of private markets subverts the entire goal of public goods.
So we're in a bind, where it isn't obvious if we can merge the efficiencies of market allocation with the ethics of public goods. However the dynamics of Persistent and Quadratic Voting can solve this problem neatly.
Quadratic Voting excels in helping an electorate prioritize options. With quadratic weights that are instead allocated in various persistent elections, we can apply the same idea to help prioritize the use of public resources in a way that mimics the efficiency of markets without allowing economic inequality to interfere.
For any recurring public resource, such as assets that aren't consumed (public equipment or buildings) or that come in a continuous supply (such as doses of medication or a portion of a recurring budget):
- Citizens can place their quadratic weights on any person (themselves or others) to increase that person's priority weight.
- Priority weight would be determined in the same quadratic manner we're used to, with the strength of each citizen's weights decreasing linearly as they place them on the same person.
- All citizens are ranked by their priority weight, and the resource is allocated in that order. After someone has been allocated, their weights can be removed and placed on other governance decisions.
- Ties could be broken either by date of weight placement, or some other reasonable and non-arbitrary quality.
- Because priority weight is determined quadratically, the priority demands of larger groups of people would on average have more strength than smaller groups of people. This system is a democratic market, one in which all participants have the same amount of wealth.
- This system is extremely flexible, and can prioritize allocation of any amount of resources to any number of people.
- Since quadratic weights would also be used in other forms of governance (some of which we haven't yet discussed), each citizen has an incentive to not simply throw all their weights behind something they want until they get it, and possible "locking" rules can disincentivize that impulse further.
- We no longer need arbitrary and inefficient allocation policies, but can defer to the distributed knowledge and preferences of the citizenry.
- Graft and insider maneuvering to gain priority is much more difficult in such a clear and open system than with arbitrary policy decisions.
- Despite being a democratic market, this is still a market, and could disadvantage those who struggle with making difficult decisions.
- Could disadvantage those who are isolated or don't have a strong peer network.
- As with any situation in which there is demand for a scarce resource, there is a risk of coercion, theft, and black markets. However this is true even in private markets, and doesn't seem avoidable only through mechanism design.
- Citizens could potentially "lock" their weights for increased amounts of time in order to increase the strength of those weights by some as yet undetermined scale. Should this be allowed? In what precise manner would locking increase strength?