The Big Three
Right now, you're probably jumping up and down, fuming or laughing, and saying "this is ridiculous.'' Because you recognise three gaping holes that the model needs to address before it becomes interesting.
- Human Nature
We worry about these things too, so here are some initial thoughts.
Like everyone, we assume Barter is an inefficient version of exchange. (Though the model may surprise us.) So getting a version of money working is my priority. We have a first draft of MoneyAgent which treats money as another resource except :
- agents don't spontaneously get or consume it
- MoneyAgents will not barter, only exchange money for other resources.
Probably, for a money economy to be really effective, we'll have to introduce the idea of "traders" : agents which try to buy more than they need, in order to resell, thus moving resources further through the social network. When we do, we really ought to have an equivalent for barter so there is a fair comparison. Possibly ProfitSeekingBarterAgents are already doing a small amount of this.
Maybe we should have "charity" agents, who collect surplus and redistribute it on a gift basis too.
How are prices to be set? At the moment, a local auction mechanism. Is the current one the right one to be using?
Things we'd like to test with a more sophisticated notion of money :
- the effect of a universal minimal income.
- We'll implement discretionary lending of money, and so compare lending for interest with InterestFreeMoney.
But people are selfish, right? Only a model which treats agents as selfish utility maximizers has any validity.
Let's answer that in two parts :
- people are selfish : Well it looks like that ... if you're going to squint a bit and make rough generalizations. It can also look like people are generous and give gifts when they have the chance. (Which they do during a large part of their lives. GiftGivingNow)
- But in general, while no one is going to build accurate models of human nature, we think we can look at some aspects of psychology.
- We can look at societies where behaviour is "learned" from neighbours and the viability and sustainability of altruistic behaviours in these contexts. (By analogy, much work on altruism takes the form of game-theoretic investigations of the prisoner's dilemma. And discusses when co-operation can invade defection.) Given some hypotheses (criticisable as always) about how behaviour can be passed from one agent to another, we can look at the viability and sustainability of altruistic economic behaviours.
- Only a model which treats agents as selfish utility maximizers has any validity.
- Even when we accept people are selfish, we can still question whether the current economic system is the only organization available to rational self-agrandizers. Simulation can tell us whether there are others, equally compatible with the "selfish" view of human nature, which are nevertheless fairer and more productive.
A second problem of human psychology is laziness. See WhyWork?
These economies look at a fixed number of resources. But isn't the real essence of modern capitalism creative destruction? In other words, don't we need to incentivate people to invent new types of products and eliminate others, not just pass the existing ones around?
Well, exactly what motivates people to be creative is a question of human psychology. With our model, we can at least start with agents which can introduce new resources. We can tinker with the rules for introducing them. For example, if innovation is considered to be a function of spare surplus, free to be invested in innovation, is it better that this free surplus is concentrated or distributed?
Other Burning Questions
Other things we are particularly keen to look at :
- LocalCurrencies : what might be the benefit of introducing multiple kinds of money. For example, if neighbourhoods can add a second type of money (cheaper to create or borrow) can this improve economic activity in an area?
- RedistributiveTaxation? : does this have any beneficial effect? Can an exchange economy with redistributive taxation out-perform one without? Under what conditions?
- Globalization : what happens when separated markets, clusters of agents previously using different currencies or within zones of redistributive taxation are "opened" amd able to trade freely with each other?