Reading Response 4 / Margot Harknett

In Guidelines for Envisioning Real Utopias I think it touches on a point that myself and others struggle with when it comes to speculative or futuristic thinking and that is it’s easy to be realistic about what already exists and it’s easy to imagine a perfect world without being realistic but it’s very difficult to be realistic about a perfect future. I think it’s very relevant to analyze through systematic theoretical models of institutions and empirical studies of proposals that have been tried. Most proposals get through the phases of desirability and viability but get shot down in the achievability because people instantly think of how practices that are already implemented today. When the author talks about UBI I understand where he his coming from and yes something like eliminating poverty would be ideal but this is a situation when it is desirable but maybe not so viable or achievable depending on how you view the situation. I for instance think it would be nice but I see an issue with the poverty line rising. If we give everyone a grant then what is stopping the price of standard living from rising? Also the issue of if people are able to live off the grant then what is promoting them to find jobs and work? Which then kills it’s own system because the economy isn’t being stimulated. In many places the system hasn’t worked and I think we should take that into account and focus elsewhere.


Reading Response #4 / Rachel Adkins

Guidelines for Envisioning Real Utopias, by Erik Olin Wright, actually presents us with quite a bit of hope for the future in the currently too-often bleak world of socioeconomics. As we see it today, capitalism is entirely past its peak. Some might even suggest that capitalism is so far past the peak that it is now violently hurling itself down the side of the mountain. Unfortunately, we don’t exactly know what we might find when we reach the end of that downfall, or if we will even find anything at all. As suggested by Wolfgang Streek in How Will Capitalism End? it is entirely possible, and more than likely, that we will not have an alternative set up and ready to instantaneously replace capitalism once it has reached full termination. Wright provides us with a pretty solid way of thinking in order to be at least nominally prepared for that time.

Socioeconomic alternatives should be evaluated by three criteria: desirability, viability, and achievability (in that order). Often times, genuine discussion and exploration of alternatives fall short, never reaching a point in which provide any insight for future projects, because those involved get caught on the implications of the “achievability” step, before they even get started. I think at this point, political pessimism, and the urgency with which we reject alternatives, is a troubling symptom of capitalism itself. So many people have been demotivated and crippled by the deep-seeded crises caused by capitalism, that they simply cannot find the value in trying to alter a system into something else that might be as just as equally damaging. The fear of the unknown will always triumph.

But on smaller scales around the globe, projects are in fact under way that may point to promising signs of change. The concept of Universal Basic Income has taken hold in many communities across the globe, most notably the campaign that began at the beginning of 2017 in Finland. The Finnish Social Security Institution, known as Kela, is supporting a project that provides a monthly allowance of non-taxable money, to 2,000 beneficiaries, who can use the money however they choose. However, of the 2,000 people supposedly chosen at random, they were only pulled from a selection of individuals who are currently unemployed and already receiving government assistance. While general reception of the program seems to be positive, I think it is unfortunately quite easy for the results to be significantly biased or lack true, useful potential, because of the narrow demographic Kela has chosen as beneficiaries. As Wright mentions, it is important to treat these small stepping-stones as if they were scalable, and could be applied to increasingly larger test groups. “Skimping” in a sense, creates unrealistic and misleading portrayals of the larger system at work, and in that case, it is much easier for experiments and small-scale projects to be quickly written off, simply as one-offs.

Reading Response 4 | Clara Fasce

During the 2016 election one of my friends compared the candidates promises to those of a 2nd grader running for class president. They promise candy for lunch, naps every day after recess, and no more homework. Sounds great, but none of the promises have any substance to them because none of them are realistic. This was a telling moment in my adult life. I continued to find that most socialist and free market theories embody this idealist view of a 2nd grader. Simply all talk and no substance.

Whenever capitalism or socialism is blamed for creating an unequal or dystopic society I roll my eyes at the gross simplification. Yet even worse is when people claim they can be the foundations for a utopia. No society can stand on free market or social well fare alone. I would believe in having candy for lunch way beforehand. Therefore, I found it refreshing when Erik Olin Wright suggested that social alternatives can be evaluated by three different criteria: desirability, viability and achievability. This is a useful tool in evaluating socialist and free market dreams.

One of the greatest steps I believe America ever achieved towards socialism was the implementation of social security. It’s a huge program taking up 24% of the federal budget and almost everyone has access to it. Anyone over the age of 66 has access to the benefits- from those poverty stricken to billionaires. When the program was first created in the 30’s the idea of creating a version that only went to poor people was suggested, but president Roosevelt shut down the idea. He claimed that a program like social security can’t survive politically if it’s only implemented to poor people. It had to be for everyone. This enables the population to see the program as a right that they’ve all contributed towards instead of a hand out.

If we were to take Social Security and compare it to Universal Basic Income, as policy makers discuss it these days, Social Security could be seen as a successful precursor. The program is desirable, viable and achievable in ways UBI is not at the moment. UBI currently targets funding thought this type of Robin Hood Economics of take from the rich and give to the poor. Aside from fairy tails, its not a viable system. Social Security on the other hand is funded by taking a portion of your earnings and setting them aside for later in life- it’s a system that everyone can contribute towards. If UBI is to be desirable or viable it has to have a benefits transcending class lines.

In an article by Vox the idea of replacing all social programs with UBI is discussed. Unfortunately, the findings are not great.

Reading Response 4 / Adam Stafford

“It sounds good on paper, but it will never work.” We’ve all heard it before, in countless sociopolitical conversations or arguments. But is that entirely true?  This is the main struggle of anyone trying to visualize a real utopia. With that come skeptics, and before enrolling in this class I would definitely have classified myself as one. Don’t get me wrong, just by being in this class hasn’t changed that- I am still skeptical of the current social and economic system we live in. But I also quickly found myself skeptical of the theoreticals and conjecture that make up the bulk of speculative design, wondering what the realistic application and value of all this could be. Thanks to Erik Olin Wright’s guidelines for envisioning real utopias, I have a better understanding of what this is all about.

This led me to begin researching real-life applications of what can sometime seem like radical ideas. According to Wright’s process for address alternatives, it is of highest importance that we take all sides of any given issue into consideration. What’s more, they need to be taken seriously. We can’t just shrug off visions of new, transformative ideas for social structures just because they seem too bold, but we must also remember not to fully demonize the current model, as there are benefits that can sometimes be overlooked.

One concept that has always had a “too good to be true” appeal in my eyes is Universal Basic Income, or UBI for short. Surely this is an effect of the current socio-political and economic system that I was brought up in, but I was surprised to find that more and more people in America and around the globe see this a real possibility, including top economists. I think that it goes without saying that there is a high level of desirability for basic income. Even those in opposition often admit that it is a great idea, but this is usually where the, “it sounds good on paper, but it will never work,” argument comes into the conversation.

There is a lot to be said about the viability and achievability of a society with universal basic income, and much of it comes from studies and research that have already been done, or are currently in development. A recent study by the Roosevelt Institute shows that UBI could grow our economy, and according to an article on Huffington Post, numerous experiments in the implementation of UBI (or something like it) have already been successful. If this is true, it begs the question, why haven’t more countries given this a shot? And if they have but were unsuccessful, what were the obstacles that stood in their way?

I think that people who are strongly against or skeptical of things like UBI, or just the very redistribution of wealth, fail to realize how many benefits it would yield not only for society and the people around them, but them too! There needs to be a kind of balance between the two sides of the proverbial coin. For example, by offering citizens basic income, thereby providing the basic needs for life, other services like healthcare, (a contentious topic when it comes to government issued services) could be offered through the market. Conservatives tend to be pegged as greedy and cold, and in some cases that may be true, but I think it’s a lack of vision and perspective that keeps them from seeing the real viability and achievability of basic income.

Reading Response 4 / Heather Weyda

In Guidelines for Envisioning Real Utopias by Erik Olin Wright he talks about how we need to think about future utopias using three different criteria: desirability, viability, and achievability,. When it comes to desirability it is more about the basic principle of the utopia rather than set institutional design. Viability is whether or not it’s actually capable of working successfully or is feasible and focusing on the likely dynamics and unintended consequences. Lastly achievability focuses on what is needed in order to actual implement the new system.

The main concept that was brought about by Wright that interests me the most is the idea of a unconditional basic income (UBI). Universal income is when every gets a basic allowance of what you need to live off of. The idea in theory is really comforting to think about. I know a lot of people who wanted to pursue a career but they were deterred by the fact that they might not be able to make enough money to live off of doing so or that particular field was oversaturated and it would be more difficult for them to find a job. The idea of allowing people the opportunity to pursue the arts or something they love without having to worry about starving is a nice one to think about. This would also allow for students to be able to focus on their studies instead of working in order to afford the cost of living.

However, I do have my reservations. I question if this would simply bring up the rate of everything else. This basic income, in the current state of our economy, would act almost as a baseline for prices. Since the current state of the economy is completely flexible prices change in the same way the economy does. So in theory if everyone starts off with a certain amount of money then it set the precedence for how much everything costs, thus raising the cost of living over the universal basic income amount. Whenever I think about universal basic income my mind automatically goes back to the discussion of raising the minimum wage to $15, which had a similar argument against it. Also, if the universal income taxes the wealthy to give to the poor I question how they will decide the amount and where the cut-off point is. If the taxing is not done right then it could leave people in a worse financial situation than before.

But, there is evidence to show that universal income could actually help the economy grow. One study shows that if there is a basic allowance of $1,000 a month then the economy would grow by $2.5 trillion by 2025. This specific report states “The larger the universal basic income, the greater the benefit to the economy.” In this scenario the universal basic income would be paid for by raising the federal deficit. However, it did find that if universal income is paid for through taxing it does not change the state of the economy.




Reading Response 04/Andy Millard

In this reading, Guidelines for envisioning real utopias by Erik Olin Wright he explores some realistic utopias and how to evaluate them by desirability, viability, and achievability. He talks briefly about how some intellectuals remain critical of capitalism but acknowledge the importance in continuing the technological dynamics.

I am fascinated by the idea of Universal Based Income (UBI) and how Wright says At it’s core UBI is a very simple idea. Yes it does seem like a very simple Idea, but with much risk. I would like to think that if we all received a monthly stipend with to spend on the cost of living, that we could spend our time on earth doing much more important things. I would be so curious to see how it effects crime rates, homelessness, wellbeing, etc…

I think about this idea of UBI and think of retirement. Iv noticed second hand that if you are able to retire at a reasonable age you don’t just sit around and loaf for the rest of your existence. Chances are you want to get out and spend the rest of your time doing something positive, like seeing the world or volunteering/working. There is also the idea to replace welfare with UBI in hopes of dealing with the upcoming labor market.

It is interesting to see what negative remarks come from this idea of UBI. Assuming that people will just sit around and collect there stipend each month that happens to be supplied but the heavily taxed rich. I do believe that will happen, but I also think the percentage of people who take advantage of the system will not out weigh the percentage of homelessness, crime, and discouragement currently. This could lead in to the reading where Wright talks about desirability. I liked what Philippe can parijs argues; “that it is justified on the grounds that it guarantees ‘real freedom for all’ by insuring that everyone has the capacity to make certain autonomous choices around their life plans.” This philosophy alone could change the way a huge percentage of the people in the world go about their daly life. Think about all the good that could come out of people not having to scramble to put food on the table working some terrible job. David Purdy follows this up by arguing; UBI is a crucial component of transition to a sustainable, steady-state economy. I believe that if things continue the way they are for much longer, we will undoubtedly crash and burn.

one side
another side


“The time has come to stop sidestepping the debate and home in on the real issue: what would our economy look like if we were to radically redefine the meaning of “work”? I firmly believe that a universal basic income is the most effective answer to the dilemma of advancing robotisation. Not because robots will take over all the purposeful jobs, but because a basic income would give everybody the chance to do work that is meaningful.”

Rutger Bregman

UBI + 15hr work week

Reading Response 4 | Kat Fenton

I’m really glad this text outlined what it would be talking about in 5 bullet points because I had to read this a few times to feel like I understood what was going on.

This paper formed desirability to be based on morals. I’m not sure I entirely agree on this since, in my opinion, many things are desirable but entirely immoral or vice versa. Its also quite hard to have a discussion about desirability based on these means since different cultures place more emphasis on different values. Viability stands more along the lines of achievability. But it’s goal is to do away with the notion that “it looks good on paper but it will never work”. Achievability is the final step. It asks “what would it take to implement this change”.

The example used here is UBI (I had to look this up because I’ve only heard very vaguely about what it is). As I was reading into this, I found this really cool Forbes article. It points out our ever changing world of work. Companies used to be hundreds of thousands of people, but now, they can be run by just a handful – 13 people run instagram :O Three things can come of this; we do less work, we demand twice as much, or a bit of both. These options all require a huge change in the way we think about work today.

“It would eradicate those huge marginal tax rates that people at the bottom of the labour pile face.” In layman’s terms, it would eliminate the taxes that keep our poor in poverty. If our politicians today started their arguments with that statement, I know an overwhelming number of people would support their stance.

Viability is a bit hard for me to understand since it seems to consistently be linked to achievability. I found the argument that we should talk about the future as much as possible really unique and interesting. People tend to think only about one step forward instead of two. I think we’re a bit afraid of the possibilities so we avoid speculation. Social limits and beliefs about those limits are also closely linked and it’s definitely important to recognize this. Don’t get me wrong, you can make the impossible possible, but its never easy. NASA believed they could go to the moon and we did. Copernicus believed the earth wasn’t the center of the universe, he was shunned by everyone he knew. It wasn’t until quite a bit later that his belief’s were adopted by the general public.

Reading Response 4 | Emily Schaefer

My Thoughts & Understandings from the Reading “Guidelines for Envisioning Real Utopias” by Erik Olin Wright:

Thought One: So far, there isn’t an answer to transforming capitalism, because there is a lot of distrust in alternatives.

Thought Two: People let their doubts and uncertainties stop them from thinking about what the future could be. Right now, it’s too hard to think of a “viable, achievable, and desirable” form of social structure, different from the one we’re living in.

Thought Three: This is because there hasn’t been a good way to “test” if a different form of social structure would work or be better. It’s hard to tell on a small scale, and too risky to experiment on a large scale.

Thought Four: Achievability is the hardest because people can’t possibly know what’s in the future to let us have the power to change our gov/social structure.

Thought Five: It seems to me that people have a “try it before I buy it” attitude about UBI, but what’s funny is that people aren’t buying it because they’re too scared to try it in the first place.

Thought Six: Because of this, I wish there was a way to simulate “possible futures” before people just turn ideas down. Maybe if there was a way to simulate the outcomes of UBI, and prove it’s benefits without risking it in the real world could provide some clarity or helpful decision making? Could IBM’s Watson be capable of this?

Thought Seven: The lower and middle classes would greatly benefit from a UBI. If I were born into a rich family, would I still like the idea of a UBI as much as I do now?

Thought Eight: I think it’s true that a lot of people might opt to live off of the basic income. Yes, there are some lazy people in the world, but there are also people who deserve a chance to break out of their cycles and habits due to debt.

Thought Nine: “In most developed capitalist economies, a generous UBI is not currently achievable: the dominant political forces in these countries do not back basic income as a general proposal, and public opinion is certainly not behind it.” — This sentence is interesting to me.

Thought Ten: I’m wondering if maybe a UBI could be granted to people in certain circumstances, and could be applied for? Maybe it could be something that the government provides to the agricultural world, or artists?

Thought Eleven: “The problem of viability is particularly important because there is so much skepticism among people who are convinced of desirability and willing to participate in the political work to make alternatives achievable, but have lost confidence in the workability of visions beyond the existing social order.” — I feel like this is a true statement.

Thought Twelve: “…The analysis of the viability of alternatives to existing institutions should not be short-circuited by the problem of political achievability.” –I wish more people realized this.

Thought Thirteen: High profits = Poor people suffer. Low Profits = Better life for normal working class citizens.

Thought Fourteen: We’re not just trying to fight the rich and dominant, we’re also trying to fight government. Are these arguments strong enough to face those two together?

Thought Fifteen: The paragraph that talks about how a limited below subsistence UBI doesn’t work, makes a lot of sense to me. I could see the possibility of employers taking advantage of that money, and paying people less for service jobs like waitressing, retail, etc. Internships might not be paid.

My Additional “Real Utopia” Research: Universal Basic Income:

Universal Basic Income is something that I wanted to learn more about, so I decided to use that as my “Real Utopia” research. Coincidentally, while I was doing the assignment on New Technology, I discovered the World Economic Forum’s website. On there, I found a video from their most recent meeting called: “Basic Income for All, Dream or Delusion?” which is an amazing discussion by experts coming from different countries and backgrounds. Did you know India is looking into implementing UBI into their system?

In Summary (If you don’t want to read all of the quotes):
UBI is becoming more desirable and being looked at by many different countries. Automation and silicon valley have a role to play in the emerging interest, as well as countries “experimenting” with it on a small scale. India might be the first to try this on a large scale, as they are opening up discussions about implementing it. From the research that has been done, people benefit greatly from the extra income, and typically don’t use it to buy drugs/alcohol, but use it instead as a way to ease the tension in their lives and pursue more meaningful things. Every country is different, so a UBI can’t really be talked about on a global scale. It should be talked about for specific regions and even occupations (ie: the medical world) that it could effect. As far as viability, Guy Standing makes the point that the US government was able to fund the quantitative easing of 475 trillion dollars – dollars that could’ve been spent on UBI. It’s possible for countries to do it, but they have to be open to moving money around. In America, a form of UBI is being done successfully in Alaska.

Here are some relevant quotes that I picked out of the discussion:

Guy Standing: [Starting the discussion]
“…We’ve been going through a period where we’ve been doing a lot of fundamental research on the feasibility, affordability and implications of a basic income, and for many years, we’ve been totally ignored. But in the last couple of years, there’s suddenly been a huge surge of interest – partly by a realization about automation. Now, I want to stress that that IS NOT my rationale for basic income. It never has been… but it’s quite useful because it’s made us more topical.” -Relates back to desirability issues

Guy also goes on to say that some of our metal health issues can be solved with basic income because it will take care of our security issues that we have. “What we’ve found in our pilots – I wish people would look at our evidence from our pilots – rather than continue with their views, covering thousands of people, and most fundamentally, we found that the emancipatory value of a basic income is greater than the money value. The point is that it gives people the sense of control of their time… so that the interest in learning grows higher than the values of just surviving…” – Something that people are concerned about is that people will get lazy if they receive a basic income. Guy’s studies show that people don’t take advantage of it, and even improve their health from not having to worry about “making ends meet.”

Ambitabh Kant: [about India’s Government]
“…So there’s a huge imbalance which is taking place – the technology evolution has moved much faster than the structuring & skill evolution of our people. And therefore my belief is that if we were to do away with the [current system India has] we should give universal basic income, but give it as a loan with interest free for a period of 3 years. But be sure that this money is re-paid and used to recycle for productive purposes, which will allow you to reach a vast amount of people in society.” -From watching Kant speak on India’s perspective, I think that he is very overwhelmed with the task of helping raise the poverty line in his country. He made the point that India isn’t like Norway, it’s larger and very diverse. He is afraid that there will be parasites of the money, if India gives it out freely, however he does admit that a UBI could be successful with the right conditions. In general, India has a lot to fix in terms of structure which kind of reminds me of the text we just read about Dark Matter.

Michael Sandel:
“We tend to think of work primarily as a source of income, a way of making a living, but of course, work is also a source of meaning and identity, a place in the world and a way of contributing to the common good… The debate about the basic income forces us to confront and debate what really is the point and purpose and social purpose of work. Listening to my colleagues on the panel, it strikes me that there are two very different arguments in the current debate about a UBI. There’s the ethical argument going back to Thomas Paine, and then there is the compensatory argument of silicon valley based on automation.

One might look at these two arguments and go “oh well they point in the same direction, so it doesn’t matter too much which one we embrace. However I think that would be a mistake. I think IT MATTERS A LOT what reasons, what rationale, what principal governance we embrace for the following reason:  …With the silicon valley argument – The message that it would send, the social meaning that it would promote would be: “Here is a side payment, a way of easing the way into a world without work, or a world where work is obsolete for a great many people. Which is another way of saying: “We’re gonna pay you off in exchange for accepting a world in which your contribution to the common good isn’t really required – and what you do with your time is your business.” …I think that would be corrosive of the sense of mutual obligation as well as the sense that we are mutually indebted to whatever success we enjoy.”  -I hope that silicon valley hears this message loud and clear.

Neelie Kroes:
“I fear that in politics, that this is just not pure and transparent in the argument – so the matter depends on if you’re left, right, and what else. …It’s not a matter that you can stop robotizing, and we shouldn’t! In an aging population, there are a lot of positives, but anyhow it’s difficult on a global scene talking about this principal, for that you have to be far more specific. It’s easier and better to talk about the more specific cases this will effect: like the medical world.” -Neelie has concerns about the transparency of the automation issue, and how it will effect regular people.

Guy Standing:
“If I can be blunt, the affordability question is one that is very easy to answer. And I mean it. Somehow, with quantitative easing, the US government was able to fund the quantitative easing of 475 trillion dollars. If that money had been used to pay a basic income, every American household could have been able to receive 56,000 dollars. That’s just one little example. I strongly believe that we must frame basic income as ”paid from Rentier capitalism and from Rentier-ism” because at the moment, the corruption of capitalism is primarily because of the returns to property and intellectual property. The rentier income from natural resources are going to a tiny minority, and we need to be sharing that. So something like the Alaska permanent fund or the Norwegian fund that was set up.”  -The discussion runs out of time, so the other speakers don’t have a chance to answer this question about affordability. However Guy seems to be quite sure that our government can afford it, and is currently wasting money in other areas. Neelie Kroes mentions that it is a different situation / solution for every country.

Reading Response 4 / Niyah Jackson

In Wright’s book under the chapter “Guidelines for Envisioning Real Utopias” he examines evaluating alternatives to capitalism with three criteria: desirability, viability, and achievability.

In order to test viability, one can analyze a theoretical model of a systemic social structure and look at existing case studies of something similar already being tried. 

He explains how UBI (Universal Basic Income) works: everyone gets a stipend to live a no-frills live that’s just above the poverty line. You don’t have to do anything to earn it, it’s just granted to every citizen. In order for this to happen there’d have to be a higher tax on the rich to cover it. What’s the standard of “rich” though? “Others have argued that it is desirable because it eliminates absolute poverty without creating poverty traps associated with means-tested programmes.”

I like the point about it leading to more of people doing what they love and are passionate about. Artists wouldn’t have to “starve.”

This could possible decrease homelessness, although, I wonder if some people would still choose to live that way.

Those that argue people would just take the money and not work, I disagree with because I feel the vast majority wouldn’t be content with just living at their means, but may want to live above it in order to go on vacations, buy nice cars, etc. which is where having an actual job comes in.  

I agree with the point the author makes about not being too concerned with achievability when thinking about new, future, social structures. There are so many things humans don’t know are achievable yet. That’s why we’re constantly discovering new cures, new technologies, new facts about the very first humans, etc. This notion of is it even possible, is not something to ponder on for too long, and hinder our growth.

Examples of “Real Utopias”
Task Rabbit
Community gardens
Public libraries
Company cooperatives
*Thrift art store downtown pay what you wish. Indigo Hippo
Green Bank West Virginia where the “electrosensitive” can come to escape the digital world.

The “real utopia” concept I want to delve into is the idea of “paying what you wish” for something. I encountered this in Cincinnati for the first time when I stumbled into Indigo Hippo in OTR, a thrift art store with loose supplies people donated. When the salesperson told me that I can choose what I’d like to pay for my items I got excited. While there’s suggested prices based on a colored stickering system, you have the option to say, I want to pay $1 for this prismacolor marker, or 25 cents.

I think this model works in a place like a thrift store (donation-based), and it would be nice if other thrift stores did the same thing. The challenge is of course whether or not the owner’s would make enough profit in a regular business model like a clothing boutique in OTR for example. I wonder if it’s the difference between a small, locally owned mom-and-pop style shop, where the owner is probably investing a lot of there own time and money into this business and a large corporation like Mcdonald’s or Walmart, who probably won’t be as dramatically affected by this idea. Either way, both entities have to pay for stock, maintenance of the store, the light bill, etc. What is it about Indigo Hippo that makes it work out okay then?

Desirability: I think this would be very desirable for the consumer. This bartering economy would cut out the dissapoint one may feel for overspending on an item they didn’t think was worth that much, or not purchasing something because they couldn’t afford it.

Viability: In order for this to be successful there’d obviously have to be some level of standards. You couldn’t have people paying for a flat screen TV with a dollar bill in their hands. Maybe it’s more of a range thing, or there’s a color coded guideline like at Indigo Hippo. Also, time might be an issue. People bartering and trying to figure out how much they want to spend for something while there’s 20 people in line behind them would be a downside to the alternative of a “set price-pay-and-go” model. Digital products that can be downloaded and aren’t attached with a shipping/handling/manufacturing cost, are more likely to be successful under this model.

Achievability: This can definitely be achievable, as there’s already a lot of examples of it being done. With the right seller and buyer relationship, persuasion, and fair-mindedness it is very possible.

Other examples of the use/success of this model upon research:

  • “Use by restaurants has been spreading since the opening of One World Everybody Eats, in 2003 in Salt Lake City. The restaurant is now owned by a nonprofit group that requires customers pay at least $4 for their entree.” –Wikipedia
  • “A major boost in awareness occurred in October 2007, when Radiohead released their seventh album, In Rainbows, through the band’s website as a digital download using a PWYW system.” -Wikipedia
  • “In 2010, Panera Bread bakery used the system in a St. Louis, Missouri suburb, and has generated further attention by opening more since.” -Wikipedia
  • Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and other neighboring museums have this system.

According to a Forbes article, “research has shown that when people are able to set their own prices, almost everyone pays something—and sometimes well over the suggested price.” The same article considers whether or not consumers are pro-social or pro-self. Those that are the former are more likely to spend more when asked what they would pay for a cookie, and those who are the latter will do the opposite according to their surveys.

But this shifts when the context changes… “She and Morwitz then took the findings a step further, to see if they could change the results by changing the nature of the transaction. In a new experiment, they offered a scenario in which a local coffee shop was promoting a PWYW cup of coffee. The researchers presented the deal in two ways: In the first description, they stressed that the shop offered great coffee with great value and efficient service, setting up an exchange norm. In the second, they emphasized that the servers always offered a warm greeting, took an active personal interest in the lives of their customers, and recommended new coffees based on their preferences, signaling a communal norm. When asked what they would pay for the coffee, pro-social participants increased the amount they paid under the second condition but only by 13 percent, $2.45 to $2.79. But significantly, pro-self participants paid almost a third more, $1.98 to $2.63, raising their price to almost as much as the pro-social group.” This shows that sellers have the power to get people to pay more if they set a “communal norm.”

Reading Response #4/Miranda Beitel

Envisioning Real Utopias by Erik Olin makes some valid points about how to strive for alternative futures. He claims that social alternatives cannot be created or evaluated without examining their desirability, viability, and achievability. He argues, however, that the viability of the purposed alternative outweighs the desirability and achievability in importance. He goes on to say that desirability is easy to analyze and achievability is too difficult. Desirability without achievability and viability is simple because we can easily lay out something morally sound based on our values and goals. But achievability on it’s own has too many uncertainties due to the volatile nature of planning for the future. I can see where he is coming from and I respect his method. But I think he is possibly underplaying the difficulty of desirability.

To say that is it easy to map out a desirable future outcome negates the idea that everyone has a different view on what in desirable. What is desirably to someone can be completely undesirable to someone else. Consider his example of Universal Basic Income. The idea has merit but was met with a lot of debate among philosophers as to whether it would be desirable. Compare this concept to the idea of Universal Health Care. UHC would involve a similar kind of action: a large raise in taxes. A few countries have successfully implemented this in their government but lets think about what it would take to convince people this was a desirable outcome in America. For people who are ill or have chronic disabilities, they would take little convincing. This outcome would be extremely desirable for them because it would directly impact their lives at this moment. People who are not ill, specifically younger people who are not ill, might not find this idea as desirable because they are healthy enough to not need it in their immediate lives. Which could very well change if they look to the future and realize that once they get older their health will deteriorate. All in all when it’s broken down the idea of desirability does not seem very simple to me at all.

I found an article from that describes how the lack of Universal Health Care in America has a direct link to America having the highest health care spending in the world. The author claims that the US spends 2 to 3 times as much per capita on health care than most other industrialized countries. Of this financial burden about two thirds of it falls on the governments shoulders through medicare and medicaid and health insurance benefits for government workers. All of this doesn’t seem very desirable either but we have yet to agree on an alternative. Coming up with solutions isn’t easy and Erik Olin didn’t argue it was. I think his three principles of evaluation are valid but I also think they are all equally difficult to analyze.