Radical Markets: Solutions for a Gilded Age?

Sunday, May 2, 2021
First Aired: 
Sunday, July 15, 2018

What Is It

Many people think that growing inequality, the rise of populism and nativism, and the decay of democratic institutions all have the same cause—the overreach of markets. The solution, they believe, is to limit the market through regulation. But what if rather than shrinking the market, the answer lies in expanding the market? Is it possible that we haven't let markets go far enough? Do our current regulations lead to too many monopolies? And could turning more things into assets that are for sale to the highest bidder actually be the solution to our new gilded age? Debra and Ken buy and sell with Glen Weyl from Yale University, co-author of Radical Markets: Uprooting Capitalism and Democracy for a Just Society.

Comments (15)

Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Saturday, July 14, 2018 -- 11:11 AM

I do not know how to get your

I do not know how to get your radio broadcasts here in the mid-west. Wish I did. But what you are at least implying by referring to "...growing inequality, the rise of populism and nativism, and the decay of democratic institutions..." seems to run parallel with what I have been hearing about the rise of tribalism---a phenomenon which, seems to me, is arising from social media and a subsequent loss of social skills. Now, it appears you are relating this to markets and economic metadata--IF I am understanding this correctly. But, I would humbly submit that the causation is more complex than market overreach. Stated differently, if imprecisely: there is a lot of overreach going around these days. I'll be looking forward to the outcome of the show, and a better understanding of Weyl and company's premise.
Question: Are the words nativism and tribalism at all interchangeable? Thank you!

tartarthistle's picture


Monday, July 16, 2018 -- 9:34 AM

After listening to this show,

After listening to this show, I am left wondering if I missed the definition of what a market is? I'm also wondering if plutocracy and oligarchy are compatible with markets?

Another question I have, is when people independently exchange/barter goods and services outside of the dominant currency system, is this practice considered part of the market discussed in the show? Do economists consider complex monetary communities (communities in which multiple exchange systems are at play--i.e., various forms of cash, barter, gift, credit, from diverse sources of power--are encouraged and actively flourishing) when attempting to assess economic health?

Thanks for your wonderful show!

Tim Smith's picture

Tim Smith

Saturday, April 17, 2021 -- 9:53 AM

What is a market?

What is a market?

I'll take a swing at that.

A market is an exchange of information that happens at the boundary of an agent's control.

If that is abstruse, I would say it is only because your question is so very fundamental to the point of radical markets. I would encourage others to offer their definitions as this one is only a starter.

Markets exist wherever entities with agency make decisions and exchange information. Information can be and often is monetized in human-driven markets.

Using this definition, I think it is possible to capture the radical markets that need creation or, worse, that already take authority over agents without their consent.

Thinking with this general definition, you can capture deceptive markets not readily understood. People gladly spit on a strip and mail it away to get a genetic horoscope of our past ancestors or future vectors of disease—one hundred percent of the time, that information is marketed academically or commercially or unethically without full consent. I speculate a bit on that 100%, but I don't think it is too much of a stretch given the world in which we find ourselves.

There are better definitions, I am sure. I like this question.

Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Saturday, March 13, 2021 -- 12:59 PM

Having seen no comments since

Having seen no comments since 2018, and, inasmuch as we have transcended a recent era (I hope) I must ask: are we really, truly still in a gilded age? Seems to me there is a lot of corrosion,more characteristic of copper. Or brass. Oh, sure, I understand metaphor. We live for it, dwell upon it, cherish our rite of it. Metaphor is, however, more abstraction than reality. Though you may have tired of it, I will repeat one of my mantras concerning both. I'll refrain from quoting myself: a totality of circumstances may decide if a thing is better viewed in the cool,dim,shadow of abstraction or the warm, bright light of reality. Abstraction is fine for 'what if'. Theoretical physics loves it, because as theorized by Heisenberg, there is that uncertainty thing. Reality is better, in it's own rite ( right?) It grasps at ' what really is'. Philosophy struggles with that, because it cannot rely upon mathematics to prove anything it holds dear. Philosophers of math have tried and have proven, more or less ''what really is', mathematically. I am not sure what Godel proved because I cannot grasp the mathematics.
Yes. I know I have rumbled ( grammatical indignance, notwithstanding). Just making some points.
I think, within my own limitations. Not a bad idea...
There have been numerous attempts to find a 'unified theory of everything'. Those, less than the likes of Hawking, tried. I find the task incomprehensible, possibly the sole paradox of the Enlightenment age. However, if something is beyond resolution, it is also beyond paradox...regardless of how enlightened we may become. Hmmmm.

Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Tuesday, March 30, 2021 -- 8:48 AM

Strange. I don't recall

Strange. I don't recall writing the above comments, dated March of this year. Oh well.. This post and
the upcoming show sound more like economics, but if the book mentioned is a representation of a
philosophy of economics, I guess I get that. Well, in a capilalist society, based ( they say) on democratic governance, I do not see how we would 'slam on the brakes'. All 'round us there are demands for deregulation. Capitalism is a hungry beast. The bigger it gets, the hungrier it becomes.
So, I don't see it. All the controversy over socialism;all the railing against it, further states the problem.
(All of that over a system that would not work here anyway: misdirection and misconstruction...)
Maybe someone will figure it out. Don't count on that...

Tim Smith's picture

Tim Smith

Thursday, April 22, 2021 -- 8:20 AM

Radical markets are an homage

Market design is a sweet spot for Modern Philosophy. Given Vickrey’s fundamental impact on Google, Facebook, and digital media, this is arguably the philosophical issue of our time.

There’s so much here. Some additional content, a summary or blog, would help. As it is, the show shuffled through many of the ideas in Weyl’s book, and it’s hard to react to everything there without losing the detail. There is devilry with each implementation of Glen’s radical market ideas to make decisions, assign value and rebuild institutions (some assumed or not openly expressed or even understood.) I’m not opposed to change. I see a need for it. I also see Animal Farm all over again with some of these suggested projects.

Liza fleshes out the bottom line premise in the roving reporter piece from Elizabeth Anderson. Free markets have their root in liberal ideology and the rise of the middle class. Glen Weyl is taking that thought and putting this to use to reshape real estate, politics, immigration, anti-trust and personal data. Overall I’m not convinced in every application. Some make me cringe others inspire. Each one is instructive and, in some cases, informative of markets that I don’t think enough about every day.

Philosophy Talk is short-form philosophy. As short as this show is, blog posts are shorter. Radical markets are vital to making good public decisions. Even more fundamental is radical education and parenting. There is a reason Glen finds inspiration in young minds – these are the radical mindsets that can envision the problems and the correct angle of repose from which to build a stair or blast a tunnel.

Issue publics, expertise, and idea markets are precisely where this show fell short.

What Louise’s question intimated is true – this book and concept are centralized instead of bottom-up thinking. However, it is centralized around the individual and not the government, private interest, or academic institution. Ken and Debra balked at the idea of radicalizing decision markets around issue publics. Both of the hosts characterized countervailing forces of greed, immoral and unethical interests as being able to subvert the radical markets Glen and Eric are posing here. More disturbing still, both the hosts seemed to align passion with uneducated views. Emotion is a sign of intelligence, not a lack of it. This misconception is dangerous undemocratic verve in a time when democracy is feeble and under attack. Glen has several problem statements here and in his book. None is more significant than breaking down centralization of authority wherever that authority finds harbor, and authority is always harboring and ossifying around profit and inequality.

Finally, and I don’t think anyone brought this up in the show, nor does Weyl or Posner in their book, not only does it matter how we ask the question or set up the auction rules, but it very much matters what the question is in the first place. Are we auctioning people? Homes? Opportunity? Quadratic voting isn’t going to help if a viable solution is not there to choose. Issue publics have the annoying trait of always pointing this out. Arrow’s impossibility theorem is rooted here along with the changing tide of any market or election in time.

I’m all for radicalizing markets. I see the need for change and the storm on the capital. Let’s shelter the storm with some radical umbrellas, listen to the unknowns, and pay attention to our times and thought.

Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Sunday, April 25, 2021 -- 4:08 PM

There is a commercial for an

There is a commercial for an insurance company. Or was. The driver of a car is singing. The hood ornament looks familiar. But, I cannot find out what it represents. Buick? Lincoln? Desoto? The online site cannot help. No matter, really. Hood onaments don't sing, do they? Only in radical markets...

Tim Smith's picture

Tim Smith

Tuesday, April 27, 2021 -- 6:50 AM



You just like to post so other people can research your questions. Not fair.

This is the ad...


This is the original ornament...


Now ... go read a book will you?

I think ideally Glen and Eric are thinking radical markets would obviate advertising, though the Vickrey auction is the basis for most all digital advertising. This is conundrum worthy.

Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Tuesday, April 27, 2021 -- 3:16 PM

Thanks, Tim. I suppose I did

Thanks, Tim. I suppose I did not make my point. Or not well, anyway. I read lots of books. Do I challenge others to think? Sure. It is all OK by me. People following this blog are diverse. They may have more ( or less) time on their hands than I. It is difficult to meet expectations of others. Particularly, when one does not care what those are. We are supposed to entertain many views.
That is an expectation, not a belief; desire; opinion or any other of the propositional attitudes. Even if those are wrongheaded, they were a facet of philosophy as we know it. If we know it at all...Big picture---out of the box---out of the system. Yeah. Thanks, again.

Tim Smith's picture

Tim Smith

Wednesday, April 28, 2021 -- 10:48 AM

Fair enough. I'm trying to

Fair enough. I'm trying to follow closer on the posts here and the readings from the shows - to keep the posts as sharp and pointed as possible. Besides being self serving - helping my own understanding, this is work PT staff don't really have time for so much. PT is a nice diversion in the time I have left, which is fleeting for us all.

Philosophy for the masses is a massive project, far beyond my scope, beyond Philosophy Talk even. This space is relatively quiet and pertinent in ways I don't see elsewhere. I would like to see it thrive, as I would our world. We share this hope, I know.

Thanks for the get backs and posts. I appreciate you Harold, and will call out your ideas as you do others, including me.

Take care.

Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Tuesday, May 4, 2021 -- 7:52 AM

Trying to think about this.

Trying to think about this. Whether limiting markets through regulation, or, just letting them do as they have been doing. I don't know if either course is better or best. Nor can I intuit this a in any coherent way. Having asserted that capitalism is hungry and getting hungrier all the time, it appears at least possible that it might reach some economic equivalent of entrophy.---whichever way things go.. Chaotic circumstances are, I think, unpredictable at best. Past volatility in the system, even when forecast by the experts, has sometimes surmounted their hopes and/or fears. I'm not savvy enough to suss this out. And, neither do I know if there IS a solution. My most frequent MO is pragmatism, with a modicum of skepticism thrown in.

Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Thursday, May 6, 2021 -- 7:42 AM

Your other post, addressing

Your other post, addressing the question of whether everything should be for sale raised another flag regarding this one, seems to me. Perhaps radical markets could be persuaded to be less radical if people examined their priorities and were more judicious when it comes to buying anything. Supply and demand are interdependent, and, supplies soon dry up when there is no demand for them. One insurance seller nails it by declaring: 'you only pay for whar you need'. So, having thought and said that much, I'll take the next logical leap. We, the consumers, are part of the problem AND at least part of the solution (if it is one).: we gleefully permit ourselves to be swayed by the creation and marketing of the 'next big thing' no matter what that is ;regardless of whether it has any true utility

We are suckers for what anyone calls progress, without asking ' but is it progress for me?' We are in that corner;put ourselves there, and, the paint never dries. Think about this the the next time you consider buying a new car and learn it loses several thousands of dollars in value as soon as you have driven it off the lot. Value is only an empty word. Instability would be a better one. It also applies to radical markets, seems to me.

Dwells's picture


Saturday, May 8, 2021 -- 4:11 AM

I used to think that “options

I used to think that “options trading” was about as radical as one could get. Nowadays it must be something like “globalism” and/or bit coins. Back in the ‘70s I shared a rooming house with Mike. He lived frugally for a time while working for the railway accumulating a nest egg of a few 1000s Canadian loonies. Full disclosure: with a college major in Psych, I have a bias towards behavioral observation. I watch how people act and react.

Mike started playing the market. There was a place where he could trade stocks right in the neighborhood where we lived. He would sit and watch the market ticker on an overhead screen that spanned the long back wall of the trading room. After hours, the screen displayed, “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog”.

Mike sought cheap stocks that were trading and moving up/down. He thought he could cash in on the fluctuations and line his pockets. This was an abstraction with the same allure as a pyramid scheme or roulette. Sadly, it didn’t work out for him.

A decade later I met Gary. His abstraction of choice was “options trading”. On road trips Gary told me how it was that he could make a tidy profit. I never followed his explanations, probably because I am a skeptic and an anti-gambler. However, Gary was good at options trading. Later, when I spoke to him about these shenanigans, my Dad’s reaction was the word, “Greed.”

The market is supposed to be a way to share in the accumulation of wealth, but I would never try to do this on my own. As Tommy Smothers used to say, “There are Pumas down in those crevasses.” Using that same metaphor my financial advisor is my personal big game hunter.

I would not trust my government to fiddle with “radical markets” or try to make them even more radical. It sounds like a get rich quick scheme and (yes Dad) “greed”. I’ll stay clear of bit coins, too. Gambling addiction is a terrible thing. I would not want my country or society to risk our collective resources in some market boondoggle. In describing my two examples I used the word: abstraction. Humans are veritable fountains of abstraction. However, our abstractions have unpredictable emergent properties. Hence my reference to gambling. Just saying.

Countries are in the markets much in the same way as I am—via my trusted advisor—seeking to maintain capital with modest returns. My advisor has hundreds of clients like me, and he has done a good job for us. In dealing with markets, I think the proper stance ought to be “conservative” rather than “radical”.

I found a brief, helpful, and quite positive summary of the book—prompting the following additional remarks:

1) I am reminded of the—almost as radical—electoral reform abstractions such as proportional representation. I expect the reaction would entail as much foot-dragging, too. The first-past-the-post abstraction holds us tightly in its grip.

2) Weren’t we still fighting over 18th century market regulation ideas—to combat things like robber barons—in the early 20th century?

3) Often our collective response takes effect well after the disasters are upon us. Consider our response to the COVID19. In another century, all the pandemic preparedness we are creating now will be gone again, won’t it?

4) One of these times we will wait just a little too long. Unless… we discover another way to frame and address such problems. The attachment we have for prior abstractions delays the implementation of new ones. We must deal with that before we go extinct.

Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Thursday, May 6, 2021 -- 12:48 PM

Could have found a better

Could have found a better place to place this remark. I guess. But here it is anyway. Never trust anyone you don't know. And only ten percent of those you do. Why? Well, if we can believe ninety percent of everything is bullshit, then it follows there is only ten percent left. If that. I have found, recently, that trust is in short supply. Harry Frankfurt figured that out. Years ago.

Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Sunday, May 9, 2021 -- 7:40 AM

The notion (or assertion)

The notion (or assertion) that we are in a gilded age annoys me a bit. I know, I know: science, medicine, technology, and many other facets of modern living are way beyond where they ever were before people like DesCartes and Newton. But we still have trouble aplenty in River City. This blog brings that forth every day, month and year it continues. We are so prideful over our advances and accomplishments we can hardly stand ourselves. We may be nearing a break point in the plague which has threatened to wipe us out. Very good. Will success teach us anything new or merely solidify our innate arrogance? I don't know.