There are many ideas floating around for reforming existing institutions so that they produce significantly better outcomes. The three ideas for reforming governing institutions that I know of are Predictocracy, Futarchy, and Professional Voting; I am sure there are more, and I know there are a lot more for reforming other institutions. However, there is a noticeable lack of experimentation with type of idea. Does it make sense not to experiment? Let’s do a few back-of-the-envelope net present value calculations to see if it does or not.

Let’s say that we judge Futarchy to have a 1% chance of working. Let’s also assume that if we experimented with it now it would take 30 years for the benefits to appear, that it would save everyone in the country $100/year (a conservative guesstimate, remember this is contingent on Futarchy “working”), and that the total investment would be about $100 million (surely a massive over guesstimation). Using a discount rate of 10%/year, the Net Present Value of a $100/year stream appearing after 30 years is $57 (I did the calculations). There are 300 million people in the country so the total Net Present Value is ( 1% x $57 x 300 million ) – $100 million = $70 million. So even under these calculations, the expected benefit of researching Futarchy is massively positive. Not experimenting is huge loss.

The thing that makes this investment so good is the fact that there are a lot of people in the country. Finding an institutional reform that makes peoples lives better provides a massive public good, but costs a fixed amount to find. In these calculations I have only included the people in the country, the expected benefit is an of magnitude larger if we consider the benefits to everyone in the whole world.