I am the author of the idea to reform the rules of our society, or the so-called Visible Money. In short, it revolves around changing our society and the way people behave by making money fully transparent – anyone will be able to see the financial and property flows of anyone else in the information system.
In this write-up, I would like to present the most significant areas of criticism of this idea and my response to them.
Very strong elements of criticism of this idea is heard from the liberal right. Typically, it is the people who think that state interventions in the economy are evil and should be reduced to the bare minimum, and they have similar views on the redistribution of taxes and their subsequent spending. In their view, the establishment of this system is an attempt to implement something that is against human nature and encourages bad human qualities, and it is highly probable that it would miss its purpose because people are extremely inventive in the circumvention of the rules. And usually those who violate the rules most have the means and ways to circumvent them. In other words, the visibility of money might be a problem e.g. when trying to make a tax-free payment for self-harvested peppers in the garden, however, people with millions in tax havens would surely be able to find a way to bypass visible money. Even Marx and Engels naively thought that they came up with an ultimate theory to introduce utopia and well-being for all mankind. The fact that they didn’t, and practically couldn’t, factor human nature in their theories caused suffering to millions of people – the exact opposite of what they intended and thought.
I think that the authors of these considerations do not sufficiently take into account all the changes that visible money entails. One of the fundamental features of visible money is that it will be visible to everyone in society who shows interest in it. All people, even those with a detailed knowledge of your situation and standing, can potentially become the controllers. And if people have detailed information about every economic transaction, they can easily see, witness and report unwanted behavior, which would otherwise remain hidden. In the long run, the aim of visible money is not to turn people into potential informers. The aim is to create a new mindset in society that discourages us from doing evil things. Initially, because they can be discovered very quickly, and subsequently because we are an enlightened society and nobody desires anything at the expense of others. Visible money can deliver this change without a shadow of a doubt. Before the above changes can be introduced, however, society must first overcome a barrier, which lies in the fact that illicit behavior currently pays off. When we all stop acting stupid, we suddenly see that we are feeling much better, and we will never want to act otherwise. Someone, however, has to issue the synchronization command.
As regards the loss of privacy and promotion of bad human qualities, I think that life in a fully transparent society is only a matter of habit. For example, when Europeans first come to North America and feel a little uneasy about the wide streets and large cars, they begin to appreciate the practicality of these solutions after a while, but their children, who already grew up in America, can’t imagine things being different.
Another piece of criticism I noted is that the implementation of these changes in society can easily lead to something called the Cobra Effect. The Cobra Effect is a phenomenon in which the suggested solution to a problem only makes it worse. In other words, society is such a complex and huge organism that, by improperly judging the behavior of some people, the introduction of visible money could easily cause further deterioration of the situation with corruption and other undesirable phenomena in society. However, the origin and progress of this kind of problem would likely be visible. The introduction of visible money will not be a static process, which will be launched once and run forever according to the original design. It will adapt to the current situation and approximate the optimum state with agility and through iterations. Regarding the Cobra Effect, it would be enough to promise a reward for each killed cobra after a problem is discovered and inform the people ahead of the time that the rewards would be paid only for a limited period of time.
Another complaint is the alleged boredom and slowness of life in a society where people potentially know everything about everybody else. Here, I’ll make use of the text that has been posted on the https://visiblemoney.org front page for some time now:
The change that comes with visible money will make life much more transparent. Clandestine love affairs, hidden alimonies or money paid to mistresses… everything will be much more detectable. In retrospect, life will become all too boring. There will be no hidden surprises.
However, that’s exactly what the world needs today. The life of the average Joe often resembles the Wild West where no one knows what the future holds.
Life on the primary physical level should be transparent, predictable and hence boring. At this level, it matters the most – it is life itself. When someone kills you in a computer game, you may be angry for a while. But nothing prevents you from restarting the game from the last saved state. In real life, this cannot be done. Therefore, it is necessary to ensure that life is predictable at the primary level. Even at a price of being boring. The excitement can be found at the other levels of life that await us thanks to technology. Improved virtual reality and the interface between the brain and the computer is the tech of the 22nd century.
If Buddhists are right and life is based on the principle of reincarnation, there is one fundamental error with it, which, however, can be remedied in the near future. The loss of continuity of consciousness. What’s the point of karma if one receives no feedback – I hurt this or that person in a past life, and now karma’s striking back. But if a person doesn’t know what happened in the past lives, the whole concept is nonsense.
Human life in the 22nd century will be God-like – people will enter and exit the individual worlds of their own will. They will be immortal, ageless and with limitless resources. The life of an individual will dramatically increase in value because it will be of a higher quality in astronomical orders of magnitude compared to what we are accustomed to. Visible money is a necessary intermediate step to such a state because without it there is a high risk of destroying ourselves by uncontrolled technological progress.
A frequent argument against the introduction of the system is that with the full transparency and opening up of the data in the system, the political opposition would provide completely all information about itself to the government, which could in turn misuse it. However, it should be noted that the current status quo is much closer to said scenario compared to the introduction of Visible Money. There is no way of knowing whether anyone in the government is spying on you. Visible money, however, would include a system option to audit a particular person. One could set what level of transparency he/she wishes to apply on his/her data – he/she could say, for example, that auditing is only possible once he/she personally approves such an action. In addition, every data query would be recorded in the system, and the user of Visible Money would always know who saw his/her data. The misuse of the Visible Money system by the organization running it would be systemically secured against – for example, software tools for browsing the data in the database would be gradually modified for the needs of Visible Money so that the data could not be retrieved from the database without the information on data queries being recorded in the respective part of the system where the user could see it. The organization running the Visible Money system would be supranational – and its main value would be the reputation it has with the users. Such a global organization would not succumb to collaborating with particular governments and put itself at risk of losing its reputation. The trust of the entire planet would be its greatest capital.
Another thing that could be attributed to the system is that if all finances and assets are visible as if on a platter, it will push for equality regardless of an individual’s economic abilities, which could be a killer of economic progress. On the other hand, positive changes associated with transparency will accompany such potentially negative developments. Suddenly, the weak points in value creation will become visible and will be optimized quickly. Such a change has the potential to bring about an increase in economic growth, possibly by tens of percent. Imagine if the state announces that anyone who comes up with a reasonable and sustainable way to save some state money will be rewarded with a percentage of the saved value. Human ingenuity in saving would explode at that moment. If people had access to information on how money flows in state management and such motivation, they could significantly optimize the state.
When thinking about the current state of humanity and what it actually needs at this time, it’s more than clear that the visibility of money is key for the society of tomorrow. The only other option is that I am terribly mistaken. But my mind suggests otherwise – despite the unfavorable opinion of many smart people who sent me comments.
The project has an added advantage as regards its implementation – it will not be implemented out of the blue from dusk to dawn in the whole society, but it will be introduced gradually. This is a failsafe: that if things turn out differently from what was originally intended, the society can always return to the original modus operandi without any substantial and irreversible harm. The project is likely to develop gradually – starting with the people who don’t mind the loss of privacy, with the positive effects gradually manifested in the community of people in the visibility zone. For example, it is clear that people in the system are more suitable for politics. Just as organic food has become commonplace alongside normal food, so will be visible money alongside standard money. A brand that everyone knows is a better alternative for life in society, given the impact it has on the things around us.
Even your opinion can move the compass dial, which shows where the truth is. Just post a message in the project website forum.
If you’re wondering how successful I am with my attempt to introduce visible money, please visit the project page at https://visiblemoney.org and sign up for the Newsletter. I will be occasionally debriefing you on the current state of affairs.