The point of the sticky dots was to allow participants to give priority to the most important items. If Medium implemented sticky dots, then we’d use our dots to give priority to the most important stories. If the dots weren’t transferable though… then every writer would have exactly the same priority.

Some stories should have higher priority than other stories… but all writers should have exactly the same priority? So… what’s the point of prioritizing?

The point is this: how do you determine the entitlement to prioritize? For that we need to go back to first principles. Is there a good reason why popular writers should be able to have more say in what others write, than readers? If we aim for maximum aggregate utility, then there is no reason to assume that the opinion of writers is more conducive to favouring stories than that of readers (who, by definition, will not get any sticky dots).

There is a reason why, initially, everyone gets the same number of dots: everyone’s vote has the same weight. There is still a problem though, in that the only thing you can do with your dots is vote. It would be better if the dots were tradeable for something else — why not money? Or perhaps the dots *are* money. Which brings us to the quadratic voting arrangement.

The problem arises when there is inequality in the voting power. You might argue that this is the consequence of earlier decisions, and that is very well possible.

Imagine for example that the government organizes monthly referendums, and announces in advance what the subject will be. Every citizen gets the same amount of tokens at the start of the year, which they can swap for money, or which they can use as they see fit for any referendum. So you could not vote in referendums on whether there should be restrictions on the number of pots of jam one can buy in one go, or on whether every fourth Sunday should be renamed Funday, but instead use your voting tokens in the referendum that really matters to you — whether it should be compulsory to put mayonnaise on french fries (or chips as they’re called here).

That is perfectly OK. But what if it were possible to spend an unlimited amount of money on extra tokens? Does having lots of money entitle someone to weigh more on the decision making process?

You could argue that, if someone is willing to spend $100 million on extra votes, then that ability is worth it to that person. But what is overlooked is that this is not just about the willingness to pay, but the ability to pay.

Shift sideways to healthcare. Imagine I have a condition that will kill me in three months’ time, but it can be completely cured in return for $1 million. If I scrape all my assets together, I may just be able to get to that $1 million. Will I sell everything I have in return for the cure. Maybe. However, my neighbour has the same condition, but he has only $50,000 to his name.

Is it reasonable to say that curing this condition is “worth” $1M to me, but only $50k to my neighbour? I don’t think so.

Anyway — if we’re only concerned with signalling, then transferable tokens are not necessary, and distort the picture. The totality of tokens every person has represents the totality of their preferences.

(must go now, will deal with the rest of your story later)

Written by

Accidental behavioural economist in search of wisdom. Uses insights from (behavioural) economics in organization development. On Twitter as @koenfucius

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