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Introducing: The Library of Economic Possibility
Mind Matters is a newsletter written by Oshan Jarow, exploring post-neoliberal economic possibilities, contemplative philosophy, consciousness, & some bountiful absurdities of being alive. If you’re reading this but aren’t subscribed, you can join here:
Hello, fellow humans —
I have what is, for me, incredibly exciting news.
The Library is a knowledge-base for the evolution of economic thinking in America. We think of it as a Wiki of economic knowledge for the next paradigm.
We're building LEP because we believe evolving the structures of the economy will require new economic policies, but we lack a central resource, designed for the internet, that makes the research on these policies accessible to all - not just specialists.
Before I spill any more words explaining the project, here’s an animated explainer video:
The Library itself isn’t ready yet - we’re eying a late-2021 launch. But on Thursday morning, one of our advisors, Yancey Strickler (co-founder of Kickstarter, and author of This Could be Our Future), announced that he’s providing early funding for our project through his newly formed Bento Society. In his announcement, he included a short interview with Kasey & I.
So What Is The Library, and Why Is It?
If you’d rather read here, I’ll give a brief synopsis.
We’re building The Library of Economic Possibility to address three problems.
First problem: our economy isn’t working. Readers of this newsletter will be familiar with the various ways the economy is failing workers. But the thing is: it isn’t working well for businesses, either. Our economic dynamism is sputtering.
One of the ideas that drove us to build The Library is that capitalism isn’t even working well for capitalists! Or maybe a different way to say this: today’s capitalism isn’t even doing capitalism well, never mind those other problems it’s tangled up in.
The traditional goals of our capitalist economy were growth and stability. But growth has slowed to an unequal crawl, while stability has given way to a perpetual state of financial, ecological, and social crisis.
These are not small issues; they’re structural. And addressing structural issues requires new economic policies.
Second problem: there’s lots of great academic research and real-world evidence that can help inform our debates regarding which new policies might work best to transition our economy into the 21st century. But this information is inaccessible to the general public.
It's buried in books & academic papers, trapped in PDF's, & locked behind paywalls. To have productive conversations about new economic policies, the knowledge from academic & real-world experiments should be accessible to everyone - not just specialists. But there is no such platform that brings all this knowledge together, and makes it accessible to all.
Third problem: Since there’s no such platform, our policy debates get bogged down in ideological straitjackets. Without easy access to empirical evidence, our debates over what policies might work best get lost in 'capitalism vs. socialism' sinkholes.
To address these three problems, we’re building the Library of Economic Possibility. A platform designed for the internet era, that makes it easy to have more informed, pragmatic discussions about how to design the next economic paradigm.
The Library will provide easy-to-read, comprehensive reports that make it easy to learn about an alternative economic policy, & get an overview of the evidence, both for & against.
We're also providing direct, user-friendly access to The Library's database, so you can search, learn, & use it to power your own projects.
The Library will launch later in 2021 with reports & a full database for three policies:
Land Value Taxes
Thereafter, we'll add new policies on a rolling basis, ranging from social wealth funds, antitrust laws, public investment banks, financial transaction taxes, to carbon tax & dividends.
So that’s the general public-facing spiel we give. But the coolest part of this project is in the details that we figure are too technical to go in our initial public messaging. The Library isn’t only gathering and centralizing all this scattered information, but we’re integrating it all within what we fancy is a pretty unique platform, or “information architecture”. All of the information contained within the library is interconnected in a way that we haven’t seen before.
This is what allows us to strip down complex academic information into easy-to-read “insights”, while still keeping each insight connected to its supporting context. We think this network of information will make it easy to get the gist of otherwise dense academic research, and also to generate new connections.
I won’t get into the mechanics of this yet. That’ll require a newsletter edition of its own, when we’ve moved farther along the building phase so I can accompany explanations with visual examples.
Now that we’ve announced our existence, the next step is to finish our prototype, which is already well underway. We plan on having this done by the end of 2021: finished reports and a full database on our 3 inaugural policies.
In the meantime, we’re hoping to use this landing page launch to connect with potential collaborators. For now, the best way to support the project is to share it around! You can follow us on Twitter, or share our landing page.
While I’m sure I’ll mention things about The Library on this newsletter, it’ll have it’s own dedicated newsletter. If you want to stay in the loop and be notified when we launch, you can sign up for that newsletter directly on our landing page:
If this is the first Mind Matters newsletter you’ve received…
Roughly 100 people were just added to this newsletter. Not because of a surge of interest, but because I discovered a bug that prevented some people who signed up on my website from being added to the list.
So, a number of you might’ve signed up months ago, & never heard from me since. Sorry about that. If so, I might recommend checking out a few recent newsletter’s you’ve missed:
& some links to a few things I’ve published recently that I’m quite happy about:
The Treadmill Tendency // Essay
To Annie Dillard’s Astonishment // Essay
Capitalism & the Self with Barnaby Raine // Podcast
That’ll Do it
Until next time,
By “capitalists”, I do not mean “the super wealthy”. Yes, we’re all familiar with the news stories showing how well the 0.1% are doing. By capitalists, I mean those who see the purpose of the economy as a system meant to drive innovation, productivity, and growth. Maybe a better way to phrase this: today’s capitalism is not doing capitalism very well.