Systems of Resource Allocation

City of Gold on Mayhew
Image from Steve Bowers
The City of Gold on Mayhew is almost completely constructed of gold and diamondoid; gold is relatively scarce, even in a post-scarcity economy, so constructions of this kind are uncommon

Systems of Resource Allocation

The following is a (by no means exhaustive) list of just some of the varied approaches post-scarcity economies take resource allocation. Few are mutually exclusive and in the vast majority of cases a mixed system is employed. For example; the presence of any form of social provision does not preclude a market of private property. In addition whilst each system is described as if it is an economy adopted by a nation any group can utilise these models for an internal economy. All methods described aim to deal with how sophonts acquire resources when demand for sophont labour is negligible within the economy and thus systems which consider labour a fungible commodity are not suitable for economic prosperity for all.

Guaranteed Minimum and Basic Income

Two simple and very common solutions, particularly during early transition stages, which insure a minimum level of income for each member of society. GMI usually involves some form of income modulation to insure that it cannot fall beyond a certain level (for example; the implementation of a negative income tax). A basic income is an unconditional sum of money that is awarded to all citizens, regardless of their actual income. Both are usually financed through redistributive taxes levelled at those that can participate in the economy without having to provide labour (e.g. owners of land, capital or intellectual property).

Direct Social Provision

Through publicly owned industry each citizen is allocated a determined amount of every available good and service, some of which on a cycle basis (e.g. X calories of food per day). This invariably involves some level of economic planning, be it central or distributed, that also tends to be conducted by automated technology. Examples of allocations include an amount of or level of access to: habitable space, domestic automation, utilities, nutrition, clothing, miscellaneous "every-day" items, transportation, emergency services, healthcare, augmentations, education and legal representation. In some cases individuals may pool all or part of their allocations to share, this is common amongst kin groups.

Means-tested Social Provision

A modified form of direct provision, means-testing can be employed to judge whether or not an individual is deserved of a larger allocation of a specific resource. In the first societies to experiment with post-scarcity economics medical technology was not sufficiently advanced to deal with a multitude of chronic, debilitating conditions. These individuals would receive a greater allocation of goods or services equalise opportunity with able bodied sophonts (as best as possible). In modern societies this is not a problem and instead means-testing is employed to address differences in the needs of different clades and unavoidable economic inequality arising from non-fungible commodities. For example: whilst habitable space is easy to manufacture specific locations are of a finite volume. A sophont that wishes to live in a specific area but cannot because it is full may instead be allocated space nearby, because of this they receive a higher allocation of transport services to allow them to enjoy the environment they cannot yet live in.

Indirect Social Provision

Publically owned industry is tasked with providing citizens with available goods and services which can be purchased through an allocation of credits. Systems of price determination vary from government decisions to artificial markets along with varied mixed and unorthodox methods. In most systems the amount of credits allocated is determined as an estimation of how much individuals spend over a time period, usually with a metric for living luxuriously. Due to this caps on wealth are often employed to prevent huge wealth being acquired whenever a citizen does not use all their credits before the next allocation. For extremely large purchases beyond the cap payment schemes are usually available wherein a portion of each allocation is subtracted for a suitable time period.

Metric-determined Social Provision

A modified form of direct or indirect provision wherein the receiver meeting a set of criteria determines the quantity and/or access to allocations. This system is designed to incentivise specific behaviours, consequently some form of monitoring must be used in order determine to what extend sophonts are meeting the set criteria (in most modern societies ubiquitous surveillance makes this effortless). Whilst there can be difficulties in monitoring some criteria, particularly those which are subjective phenomenon there are a myriad of examples throughout history where this system has been used to good effect. In systems of indirect provision meeting criteria can result in raising the credit cap, increasing credit amount per allocation or increasing allocation frequency. In direct systems more complicated rewards can occur such as access to goods or services unavailable previously. Common metrics include: community volunteering, global rank in sports/games, religious observation, artistic/scientific prominence etc.

A prominent example is the Cultural-Specific Social Capital Metric, this system aims to quantify social networks and reward positive relationships by allocating points. Often points expire over time to encourage continual adherence to certain behaviours. Monitoring systems operating in the environment (but ideally operating within DNIs) rate interactions between individuals. Interactions can be direct (e.g. a conversation) or indirect (e.g. a consumer enjoying a product designed by another). Scores are determined by intelligent software that infers a cultural consensus. Many civilisations utilise not just one but a multitude of metrics. These scores can then be amalgamated, taken as separate ranks or even organised into combinatorial scores (i.e. when displayed as a Venn diagram multiple metrics can overlap or negate each either). Whilst uncommon there are circumstances where changing social capital scores in one metric can automatically alter scores in another, for example; scoring high with one company's metric may lower their score in rival company's metrics.

Uncapped Personal Resources
Unlike most post-scarcity economic models UPR is distinct in having very few restrictions. In such a system there is, in theory, no limit to how many resources an individual can acquire. Many Utopia Sphere worlds use this system, and it can also be found on some MPA megastructures, in the Sophic League and Zoeific Biopolity, and in many other locations. A clear problem with such a system is that without prudent acquisition it's possible for individuals to order creations consuming vast resources, even enough to deplete a solar system. For this reason systems that use the UPR system are invariably kept under close memetic control, with citizens encouraged to avoid population growth and excessively large construction or colonisation projects. As a result of this memgeneering these worlds and systems are often the most frugal of all Sephirotic Worlds, since the citizens of these worlds may strive to reduce their consumption and population growth to sustainable levels and compete against one another to demonstrate their austerity.

In some situations conditions are applied to gaining wealth, for example members of the Negentropy Alliance can only receive luxury items if they demonstrate that the item is not frivolous or wasteful and the desire for said item is morally correct. In spite of this there are rare accounts of perverse civilisations consuming vast resources to sate the appetite of the residents. These societies were quickly stopped by their neighbours through force or covert memgineering or in some cases underwent economic/Malthusian catastrophes. The remnants of such civilisations now exist as Cinder systems.

Capped Personal Resources

A civilisation with a Capped Personal Resources (CPR) based economy affords each individual a set amount of resources for life to do with what they wish. Often according to a predetermined protocol but sometimes random a society's land, intellectual property, natural resources and capital are divided up equally amongst the population (minus that required for public infrastructure upkeep). It's very common for such systems to be
utilised in conjunction with regulatory frameworks preventing use of one's own private property from damaging another's (e.g. redirecting a river which harms those downstream).

In theory this could grant individual sophonts significant fractions of a star system's mass and energy but in practice societies don't often employ one CPR zone but a myriad of smaller CPR areas. This is due to the logistical challenges of mining and transporting matter across interstellar distances, accessing most of this mass inconveniently locked in planetary bodies in reasonable times and the problems of wealth dilution with population growth (i.e. the timescales involved change the economic landscape).

Related Articles
Appears in Topics
Development Notes
Text by Ryan BInitially published on 13 May 2014.