Epistemic status: I vant to suck you blood
Consider the products of human labour.
In a pure farming society, each person (or family) use their own labour to produce all the food and goods they need to live. But as society becomes more complex and economics happens, we develop ways of storing it in banks for later use – first for direct personal use (as in grain silos), then in more abstract ways that allow us to more conveniently trade the value of labour without having to give each other sacks of grain. We develop coinage and banks – first using valuable items or metals to symbolize values, and (as trust and stability increase) switching over to paper or electronic numbers that have no value beyond being a symbol.
This economic abstraction is what allows us to trade values and transition from a world where each person works only for himself to one where we work collectively, using teamwork and diverse talents, in order to increase production and prosperity for everyone. Each person can pursue their comparative advantage, and then trade the excess value created to ensure mutual benefit. Arguably, it is this process of increased financial abstraction that has increased human welfare throughout history.
However, labour is only one thing humans both produce and require the use of in order to live. There is another, even more fundamental product that we all create and all rely on. I speak, of course, of blood.
And yet despite how central blood is to our lives, we have failed to financialize it beyond the very basics. Each person produces only their own blood, for their own use. We have blood banks, but they serve only very basic functions – they collect and store blood, and give it to those who need it in an emergency. They act more like a primitive farming village’s emergency grain stash than a real bank. This is a failure, but also an oppurtunity.
We should liberalize blood banks to improve the blood economy.
Fully liberalizing economic systems takes generations, because they rely on repeated abstractions of abstractions (imagine trying to explain derivatives trading to a Babylonian farmer). However, a few ideas on low-hanging fruit we could get started with:
- Blood lending: Blood banks should increase their blood supplies by lending blood at interest to people who need it. For example, athletes who need a strong game day performance could borrow blood for that day, then repay with interest once the game is over. In this scenario, everyone wins – the blood banks get a larger blood supply, and the sports industry gets better athletes.
- Drugs in the blood supply: We put fluoride in the water supply in order to improve dental health, to generally positive results. It has also been argued that we should also put lithium in the water supply to improve mental health. However, transferring medication through blood is much easier than doing it through the drinking water, and a managed communal blood supply would let us do so much more. All those performance enhancing drugs that athletes take? Since athletes trade so much blood, we’d all get trace amounts of those in our bloodstream, increasing our performance. Medicine or vitamin shortages? Bad nutrition? A story of the distant past, as unimaginable as having to hunt your own dinner every night, once we introduce the communal blood supply. The quality of the community’s blood supply would rise, and over time we would come to treat each individual’s ownership of blood more like we treat money – a symbol of the amount of society’s blood that the person is owed, rather than just the supply currently hoarded in their body.
This system is not without risk, especially of increasing contamination and bloodbourne disease. However, this is also an opportunity – default risk is a common aspect of credit and stock markets, and the financial system has developed ways to price it in, accounting and controlling risk without dismissing it, letting people make risky investments even while they reduce the total risk that people take. However, while this would be a net benefit on the whole, we must keep an eye out for a 2008-style collapse caused by bad estimates of correlated risk (which could potentially be triggered by a new bloodbourne pathogen).