L7 Social Credits System

Tools For A New Political Economy

Social Credits System

Everyone would be assigned an annual allocation of social credits that begins accumulating at birth; these credits will be used exclusively for infrastructure and essential services (i.e. the
Universal Social Backbone), and would not be tradable. The calculation could, at least initially, be based on conceptions like the social dividend, since there would be a loose correlation between social credits and an individual’s portion of national (as opposed to local) common property shares. The major difference regarding social credits has to do with their a) variability of quantity based on age, and b) variability of quality based on civic participation, cultural contributions and accumulated infractions. While the quantity of social credits will progress in a predictable, linear fashion for all citizens, the quality of those credits can vary greatly — either regarding the entire balance, or a portion of that balance. Consistency of allocations, tracking and quality adjustments clearly has paramount importance here, as does the strict attachment of social credits accounting to each individual’s unique digital identifier to prevent misuse or fraud.

As to how the quality adjustments are made, this is likely something that will evolve over time as the program matures. As a first take on such adjustments, the following factors might be considered:
  • Participation in citizens councils
  • Participation in daily direct democracy (with controls that weed out arbitrary or automated participation from thoughtful engagement)
  • Personal contributions to culture, economic productivity or innovation, liberal arts theory, education, technology, science, fine arts, or any other dimension of society that likewise would increase common property shares at the community, district, state or national levels.
  • Personal contributions to the Public Information Database
  • Participation in NGOs that successfully serve community interests.
  • Participation in infrastructure and essential services that require high levels of technocratic skills, technical expertise, experience, knowledge or worker risk.
  • Volunteerism in infrastructure and essential services or NGOs at any level.
But who will make such determinations? I think it is important that there be both elected or appointed technocrats who participate in this process, as well as community-level assessments through (potentially) citizens councils and daily direct democracy. There should also be an appeals process — open to anyone who has concerns — for both exceptional awards and punitive reductions of credits, so that all such decisions are publicly and professionally vetted.

Questions also arise about transferability. For example, what if someone who has enhanced the quality of their social credits beyond any usable level for their age or needs would like to enhance the social credits of others who are disabled in some way, or even someone who seems particularly deserving but whose efforts aren’t recognized in the standard calculus? In such instances, it seems like they should be able to do so, perhaps through a civic lottery system made available to a) citizens nominated by a community for special consideration, or b) citizens with credits below a specific threshold of quality who desire a one-time “second chance” opportunity to improve their credit quality. This is in keeping with the idea that surpluses in society can and should be shared with those less fortunate. At the same time, there could be limits on such transfers (the duration of quality change, the quantity of credits affected, etc.) so that a temporary uplifting experience of higher quality infrastructure and essential services acts as an incentive to improve one’s own credit quality through prosocial, productive, creative, compassionate behaviors.

Regarding how such a large and pervasive system could be technologically administered, perhaps a blockchain public ledger could be used, though this anticipates highly distributed homogeneity and sophistication of technology across all communities. This reminds why a Universal Social Backbone becomes so critical: without standardization and nearly universal proliferation of fundamental infrastructure and services, the hope for efficient mechanisms of management and distribution of any resources (including, in this case, a credit system and currency itself) becomes untenable.

What Do Different Quality Levels of Infrastructure and Essential Services Look Like?

This is an interesting conundrum and depends both on what is included in infrastructure and essential services, and how sophisticated or developed the Universal Social Backbone becomes. And since, in the initial implementations of a Level 7 economy, networked for-profit and non-profit enterprise will compete for Universal Social Backbone customers, some natural specialization and market differentiation will occur. There will undoubtedly be higher and lower quality options for education, mass transit, healthcare, communication, CLT housing, recreation and so forth. I can imagine the highest quality social credits being associated with rare or extraordinary experiences - trips into space, temporary residence in an mountain-top estate, front row seats at the finest entertainments, exclusive education from the most accomplished professionals in their field, access to the most advanced health-enhancing technology, etc.

Could this service quality variation create a multi-class society of haves and have-nots, mimicking the current capitalistic phenomenon of growing wealth disparity? Yes, it could temporarily do so - but with significant differences. First, the “low-quality” options will actually be very good - probably much better than what is currently available. Second, the “higher-quality” recipients will not have achieved their privilege through deception, exploitation, aggression or any other nefarious means; they are being rewarded for their positive, prosocial, compassionate contributions to society as a whole (for example: the greatest good, for the greatest number, for the greatest duration). And what portion of such persons, do you think, would want to share their privilege with others where possible? I suspect a fair number. Remember also that higher quality social credits are not permanent, but only for a limited duration. Even for large accumulations of high quality social credits, if civic participation or contribution is not maintained for an extended period, the quality of those credits will begin to decline.

Can We Anticipate Moral Hazards, System Gaming or other Unintended Consequences?

First we have penalties that are inescapable, directly impacting social credits themselves. For more systemic problems, entire communities could put themselves at risk due to the linkage between social credits and common property shares. So although it may certainly be possible to temporarily manipulate the availability or quality of opportunities and outcomes, other mechanisms (direct democracy, citizens councils, technocratic administrators, competing for-profit and non-profit enterprises, etc.) will very likely discourage or adjust such situations. Indeed, as seems to have been evident in the Polis of Ancient Greece, the very ethos encouraged by direct civic participation and responsibility, along with the moral maturity that necessarily sustains Level 7 proposals, will hopefully short-circuit any flagrant abuses.

Lastly, it should be noted that this social credits system does not at all imitate the recent developments in China. For one, variations in quantity and quality of credits are not made by any central authority, nor do reductions in credit privileges aim to restrict basic freedoms (of travel, etc.) as they do in China. Rather than an autocratic Big Brother tallying every citizen’s actions, accountability rests mainly with communities, and recipients can easily appeal any decision. More importantly, the intent of social credits in Level 7 is first and foremost for universal “supportive means to maintain liberties” (see
The Goldilocks Zone of Integral Liberty for elaborations of this concept), rather than what in China appears to primarily be a tool that coerces conformance. In this way, Level 7 social credits are mainly about a workable substitute for Universal Basic Income.
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