> On Mon, 31 Jul 2000, Eliezer S. Yudkowsky wrote:
> > It strikes me that the amount of money one has, and the willingness to
> > bet, does not necessarily correlate with either competence or
> > informational advantage. Unless idea futures are a social fixture, as
> > in Stiegler's _Webmind_, one wild-eyed millionaire could blow the whole
> > system.
> This is one particular example of a general reservation I have about
> using markets for optimization.
> Take distribution of some finite resource, which each of a collection
> of bidders values differently: Since the individual who values the
> resource most will be willing to bid most, one hopes that the total
> wealth of the system will be maximized by allocating goods to those
> who can make best use of them. When all agents are reasonably equal,
> such a system works quite well.
> The system breaks down, however, when you have highly unequal players.
> Rather than a good going to the agent to whom it is of greatest value,
> it can end up going to the player to whom the payment means least.
> For a practical example, take a market for transplant organs: I'm an
> average guy with failing liver - a new one would be of great value to
> me - and I can beg, borrow, and, steal perhaps $1,000,000 to
> literally save my life. You, on the other hand, are a fantastically
> wealthy industrialist, worth more billions than you can conceivably
> spend the interest on, and you happen to like eating human liver,
> cooked, whipped, and spread on crackers. Since $10,000,000 is worth
> nothing to you, you easily out bid me.
This is the typical misunderstanding by class conflict adherents. If a
liver is worth $10 million on the market, its worth $10 million to
everyone. The only difference between one person and another is that
some can pay for it and others can't. If a liver is only worth $1
million to you when its worth $10 million to others, then it isn't worth
as much to you as to others. If you can beg borrow and steal to get $1
million, getting another $9 million shouldn't be outside the scope of
your moral strictures to obtain by similar methods. UNLESS you are such
a poor economic operator that you are unfit to compete in the economic
That being said, lets look at utility. Since most rich people, in the US
at least, are self made, having grown up in humble or middle class
circumstances, they are obviously highly effective generators of wealth
(unless you buy the false premise of socialists that all wealth is
stolen, though from who they can't seem to demonstrate), so by the
market giving them the liver instead of you, who admit that you cannot
generate $10 million in wealth by honest economic means, they are making
best use of that resource to enable them to continue to go on generating
far more wealth in the economy than you ever have. So the system has not
broken down, it has merely proven YOU economically unfit to get a liver
if such are in short supply (and if they were allowed to be bid on like
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