There are a lot of things that I wish would happen, but don't have the time to actually do
myself. I complain about such things all the time to basically anyone who will listen. Such
efforts are all well and good, and sometimes actually pay off, but additionally, I'd like to
materially support people who might actually do these things.
This post, which I'll try to keep up-to-date, if I remember, documents the projects which I
wish some talented go-getter would take on, and in which I would invest money in if given the
If you are one of these aforementioned go-getters, email
Email-based messaging: The only reason we use anything but email to communicate is
because email is missing features that could easily be added. Deliver us from
multi-messaging app hell!
RSS-based social networking: RSS could easily serve as the basis for standards-based
social networking, and would be useful even without taking a significant market share.
Bitcoin-based NFTs: NFTs are getting lots of creative people both excited and paid. Let
them suckle at mama Bitcoin's sweet and bountiful bosem instead of Ethereum's shrivled,
insecure, bitter, centralized tit. This can't be done on the Bitcoin L1, so should be
pursued as an L2. The key here is figuring out how to avoid needing a new token.
Bitcoin-based smart contracts: Much like the NFT item above. Let the degens feast at the
Bitcoin board, not at the Ethereum kiddy table. Must avoid needing a new token. The best
path forward is to fork Liquid, add smart contract functionality to Elements, and run it as
Self-hosted block game: There should be a Minecraft-like game that can be programmed and
modded from within the game.
Tax the land, pay the people.
The Terrestrial Dividend consists of a tax and a dividend. Revenue is generated with a tax
on the unimproved value of land and distributed as a cash dividend to all citizens.
If You're in Favor of Wealth Redistribution
If you are in favor of wealth redistribution, you should want to raise as much money as
possible, as fairly as possible, and get as much as possible into the hands of those who need
The Terrestrial Dividend accomplishes all of these goals.
If You are Against Wealth Redistribution
If you are not in favor of wealth redistribution, you should want revenue generation to be
as efficient as possible, and to minimize the negative economic impact of distribution.
Additionally, you should want wealth redistribution to be done in such a way that if it is
harmful, incentives align to reduce it.
The Terrestrial Dividend accomplishes all of these goals.
The Terrestrial Tax
The Terrestrial Tax is economically efficient. The supply of land is fixed, so a tax on the
unimproved value of land does not prevent the production of more land. A tax on widgets, on the
other hand, reduces the incentive to produce widgets.
The Terrestrial Tax is progressive. Land is owned by the wealthy, so the wealthy would pay a
much greater share of the tax. Due to the fixed supply of land, the tax cannot be passed on to
The Terrestrial Tax respects privacy. The government does not need to know who owns what
land, or what they are doing with it. The tax can be collected with anonymous payments, and
only in the case of non-payment must the government involve itself.
The Terrestrial Tax cannot be avoided. It is impossible to hide land or disguise use of
The Terrestrial Tax encourages productive economic activity. Since the tax is levied on the
unimproved value of land, under-utilized land is a liability, and will be brought into
productive use or sold, not held as a speculative asset.
The Terrestrial Tax is simple. Income, sales, value-added, and corporate taxes require
enormously complex and err-prone reporting. The details of these taxes are the source of
endless political litigation. Under the Terrestrial Tax, the only complexity is in fairly
valuing the unimproved value of land, clearly an easier task.
The Terrestrial Tax is legible. The negative effects of a too-low or too-high tax rate can
be observed and the rate corrected.
The Terrestrial Dividend
The Terrestrial Dividend is beneficial. Cash is more useful in all circumstances than
in-kind payments of the same value. The people who need help will get the most benefit
The Terrestrial Dividend is fair. All citizens receive equal-sized cash payments. There is
no need to exclude certain recipients, since the wealthy will already pay more tax than they
receive as dividend.
The Terrestrial Dividend is efficient. Cash payments avoid the overhead of defining the
details of and administering in-kind benefits.
The Terrestrial Dividend is what people want. People prefer cash over in-kind benefits of
the same value.
The Terrestrial Dividend is unobtrusive. It is not means tested, nor does it require an
application. The poor are the least equipped to fill out applications and submit documentation
of income, so this ensures that even the very worst off have the best chance of receiving
The Terrestrial Dividend is legible. The negative effects of a too-low or too-high dividend
can be observed and the amount corrected.
The Terrestrial Tax and Dividend are good policies on their own, but even better together
due to aligning incentives.
If you want to increase the amount of the dividend, you should want to increase the value of
all land, so that the dividend can be increased.
If you want to reduce the amount of the tax, you should want to increase the value of all
land, so the tax rate can be reduced without reducing the divided.
Under the Terrestrial Dividend, everyone should care about reducing government overhead and
waste, because it comes out of their own pockets.
Also, everyone should care about removing bad policies and implementing good ones, because
they increase the value of all land and make everyone better off.
Tax the land, pay the people.
Federated blind mints have attractive privacy, scaling, and security properties that are
highly complementary to those of Bitcoin and the Lightning Network.
I originally became interested in blind mints while thinking about Lightning Network wallet
usability issues. When Lightning works, it is fantastic, but keeping a node running and
managing a wallet present a number of challenges, such as channel unavailability due to force
closes, the unpredictability of the on-chain fee environment, the complexity of channel backup,
and the involved and often subtle need to manage liquidity.
All of these problems are tractable for a skilled node operator, but may not be
soluble in the context of self-hosted wallets operated by non-technical users, hereafter
normies. If this is the case, then normies may have no choice but to use hosted
Lightning wallets, compromising their privacy and exposing them to custodial risk.
Chaumian mints, also known as Chaumian banks, or blind mints, offer a compelling solution to
these problems, particularly when operation is federated. Chaumian mints, through the use of
blind signatures, have extremely
appealing privacy properties. The mint operators do not know the number of users, their
identities, account balances, or transaction histories. Additionally, mint transactions are
cheap and can be performed at unlimited scale.
Mint implementations, typified by eCash,
have hitherto been centralized, and thus, like all centralized, custodial services, expose
users to custodial risk in the form of operator absquatulation and mismanagement. To fix this,
mint operation can be federated, with all operations performed by a quorum of nodes controlled
by different parties.
Despite these interesting properties, Chaumian mints have largely been forgotten. This
post gives an excellent overview of the
phenomenon. I believe that Chaumian mints are currently severely underrated in general, and in
particular deserve consideration as a potential avenue for improving custodial Lightning
Compared to a naïve hosted Lightning Network wallet, a service operated as a federated
Chaumian mint offers excellent privacy, usability, security, and scaling.
Privacy: Privacy leaks from a Lightning mint come in two forms,
internal and external, when a mint operator or an outside actor,
respectively, observes sensitive information.
Blind signatures protect against internal privacy leaks, making them a strict improvement in
that respect over custodial Lightning wallets.
When compared to a single-user Lightning network wallet, Lightning mints also protect
against external privacy leaks. If the activity of a single-user Lightning Network wallet can
be observed, which is possible but non-trivial, all such activity is preemptively that of the
owner of the wallet. However, similar to a standard custodial Lightning Network wallet, any
observable Lightning Network activity of a Lightning mint is the aggregate activity of its
users, who thus form an anonymity set. If the number of users, and thus the anonymity set size,
is large, external privacy leaks are also prevented.
Usability: Compared to a self-managed Lightning Network wallet, and similar
to a standard custodial Lightning Network wallet, Lightning mint wallets offer superior
usability. A user need not be concerned with the details of node operation or channel
management, and can deposit to and withdraw from their account with standard Lightning Network
Security: The security of a Lightning mint is weaker than that of a
self-hosted wallet. A quorum of federation members can abscond with funds. However, compared to
a standard custodial Lightning Network wallet, security is greatly improved. Additionally,
federation members might be located in different jurisdictions, making the mint robust to
regulatory interference. Furthermore, members might be entities with online reputations, such
as anonymous Bitcoin Twitter users with an established history of productive shitposting,
providing further assurances against mismanagement and fraud.
Scaling: Mint operations are extremely lightweight, similar to Lightning
Network transactions, so scaling properties are similar to the Lightning Network itself.
Additionally, users need not manage their own channels, so a well-capitalized federation can
open channels efficiently, lowering the per-transaction channel management overhead.
Interoperability and market dynamics: Additionally, my hope is that such
systems will be developed with a standardized protocol for communication between wallet
interfaces and mint backends. This would allow users to use different backends with the same
local wallet interface, encouraging competition in the market.
For more discussion of Chaumian mints and their applicability to Bitcoin, see fedimint.org. Elsirion, the author, is also at work on MiniMint, a
federated Chaumian mint with Bitcoin and eventually Lightning Network support.
To close with a bit of speculation, I believe that Chaumian mints were never of particular
interest or importance because they were limited to interoperating with the fiat currencies of
the time. With the ascendance of Bitcoin, mints now have access to a powerful, decentralized,
and uncensorable currency , made economical and fast by the Lightning Network.
I believe this layering of Chaumian mints on top of Bitcoin and the Lightning Network will,
in the fullness of time, be demonstrated to be enormously powerful, and make Chaumian mints
themselves worthy of renewed study and consideration.
As an unrepentant degenerate and fan of microeconomics, it should come as no surprise that I
find the online sexual economy endlessly fascinating.
Most of what happens there isn't surprising to me, with the exception of pricing for online
sexual services, which is much higher than I would have expected.
As an example, take private, one-on-one cam shows. Browsing reddit.com/r/sexsells, the going rate seems to be between
$2.50 and $5.00 per minute, or $150 to $300 per hour.
This is mysterious to me.
Looking at ads on eros.com, offline prostitutes seem to
charge $300 an hour. This isn't the amount advertised for a one hour session, but the marginal
difference in price between a one hour and two hour session, and thus a reasonable estimate of
the hourly rate, when preparation and travel are factored out.
Given that private cam shows are legal, can be done at home, and require minimal equipment;
while offline prostitution is physically dangerous, illegal, unpleasant, and highly taboo, it seems strange that they are
priced roughly the same.
A priori, I would have expected a price difference of 10× or more, like $300 per hour
offline and $30 per hour on cam.
The PS5 was released about a week ago, and, predictably, it is impossible to get one. All
retailers, online and IRL, are sold out. Of course, consoles are available on Ebay at ruinous
prices, so at least the scalpers are doing well.
Economists, of course, are wringing their hands and mumbling about Vickrey auctions. What
Sony should do, they mutter, is to hold a daily auction for PS5s, and let the market decide the
The economists are, of course, quite right. If Sony auctioned off PS5s there would be no
lines, no scalpers, and no uncertainty. You could put in a bid at the price that you wanted to
pay, and then simply wait until demand had died down for your bid to be filled. As a bonus,
Sony would make more money for producing something that people wanted to buy, and more capital
to ramp up production.
Unfortunately, the economists don't get their say here, because of their arch enemy,
non-economists. Non-economists, or, normal people, as they are otherwise known, as far as I can
tell, don't understand that there is such a thing as an inescapable trade-off. They want
everyone to get a PS5, everyone to pay MSRP for it, there to be no scalpers, nobody to ever
make a profit from demand exceeding supply, and all things to be fair, based on confused and
self-contradictory conceptions of unfairness.
So, companies can't hold auctions for scarce goods, and have to set an MSRP, produce
whatever they can, and hope for the best.
I wonder though, if there might be some way for a company to hold an auction for their
products, but in a way that would be perceived as fair.
Here is one possible setup for such an auction, using Sony as the example company, and the
PS5 as the example product:
Sony sets the MSRP of the PS5, $499.
Sony produces PS5s, and every day holds an auction for that day's production. Losing
bids roll over to the next day's auction.
Every time a PS5 is sold for more than the MSRP, the difference is added to a
Every time a PS5 sells for less than the MSRP, that difference is subtracted from the
Auctions continue whenever the reserve pool has a positive balance, or demand is higher
Essentially, any time someone pays over MSRP for a PS5, they ensure that eventually, someone
will get a PS5 for less than MSRP. If someone rich or impatient buys a PS5 for $1000, two less
impatient people can eventually buy PS5s for $250.
I think, perhaps, this would be perceived as fair. But, with real people, you never
From Scott Alexander on the Amish health care
The Muslims claim Mohammed was the last of the prophets, and that after his death God
stopped advising earthly religions. But sometimes modern faiths will make a decision so
inspired that it could only have come from divine revelation. This is how I feel about the
Amish belief that health insurance companies are evil, and that good Christians must have no
traffic with them.
The post is about the advantages of the Amish health care system, which seems to have much
lower costs and equal effectiveness when compared to conventional American health insurance
centered health care.
The post is gripping (well, at least if you're interested in why American health care is so
expensive), so I recommend reading it. But briefly, the Amish seem to have much lower costs
with the same quality of care due to:
- Bargaining collectively.
- Getting a discount because they have a reputation for paying their bills on time.
- Not going to the doctor for little things.
- Not suing doctors, and thus not getting excessive medical care because a doctor is trying
to avoid a malpractice lawsuit.
- Aid and cost sharing being run as nonprofits.
- Keeping administrative expenses low.
- Not taking risks with their health.
- Avoiding excessive spending, because costs are shared by the community.
I wonder if much of this could be replicated with, not an insurance plan, but, something
else… an "uninsurance plan":
The uninsurance company would not directly or indirectly cover any medical expenses.
This would make it very cheap.
The uninsurance company would bargain collectively on behalf of its members.
Uninsurance members that did not pay their medical bills in a timely fashion would be
kicked from the plan and be ineligible to rejoin.
Uninsurance members would be forbidden from suing for medical malpractice except in
cases of gross negligence. (Unsure about this one, since it seems to open up members to
abuse, but if it's a net benefit, why not?)
Provide members with a health savings account. Health savings accounts are
tax-advantaged savings accounts that allow members to pay for qualifying medical expenses
from the account. Although the Amish don't have HSAs, giving members access to an HSA
should be cheap, and so shouldn't increase the cost of uninsurance. Additionally, since it
is the member's own money, it doesn't introduce any perverse incentives.
Give members access to the negotiated price lists up-front, to allow and encourage them
to comparison shop. This might be tough, because health care providers keep these prices
secret, so they can play hard ball with insurance companies that they negotiate with. But,
being able to see what you're going to pay for something is a prerequisite to trying to
save money and shop around, so this would be ideal.
The uninsurance company would be run as a nonprofit, or public benefit company.
Since the uninsurance plan is not insurance, it would be uncomplicated to supplement it
with an additional insurance, cost-sharing, or risk pooling, scheme to cover unexpected
costs, similar to Amish Hospital Aid. This additional scheme would not be run by or
affiliated with the uninsurance plan, in order to avoid increasing costs for
I suspect that such a plan would be very cheap, to make a number up, perhaps no more than
$10 per month. If it were only $10 per month, and members got an HSA, they might want to join
just for that. And, if they got insurance-negotiated rates when paying out-of-pocket while
being uninsured, the would almost certainly be willing to pay for it.
Such an uninsurance plan would encourage consumers to plan ahead, shop around, and save for
medical expenses in their HSA, maybe giving them health care approaching that of the
is a dangerous chimeric creature; it is structured like a bond, trades like a stock, follows
VIX futures and decays like an option. Handle with care.
And, currently being
algo traded by a program written in Excel
Strange times indeed.