Changing our ¢â¬default settings¢â¬â¢?

The post immediately below argues that we could achieve something worthwhile by changing the ‘default setting’ of our superannuation contributions. Namely we could require that the level of super contribution required from someone who doesn’t make any active election is not 9% as is now required under our compulsory super regime, but say 15% or some other figure. The US literature on savings habits
suggests this utilisation of inertia and procrastination and associated redefinition of normality can be powerful.

Even without appealing to these effects the power of inertia and of psychological ‘anchoring’ there’s another effect that’s important. The minimisation of transaction costs. (Maybe some people think that that’s covered by inertia, but it’s a minor quibble maybe they’re right). In any event the example I’m thinking of is copyright law that strikes me as absurdly cumbersome. Most of the debate is focused on how constraining copyright should be and how wide ‘fair use’ doctrines should be.

But with the rise of Creative Commons I would have thought that a fair bit of good could be done by making some CC licence the default and requiring those seeking to claim stronger copyright to simply declare their intention. We can go on having debates about the breadth of copyright protection and the breadth of defences of ‘fair use’. But in the meantime, life would be made a lot easier for those seeking to copy work in which there is no explicit claim of copyright.

I’d like to write a column on this as this kind of change will generally be pretty politically easy. I wonder if people can suggest other areas in which a small tweak of the ‘default option’ would be worth pursuing.

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Jacques Chester
Jacques Chester
2021 years ago

I don’t see this flying without the mother of all shitfights. Not just from those who profit from things as they are, but among opensource/free software/commons factions.

The beauty of building copyleft on top of copyright is that if people don’t agree with your terms, they’re left without a leg to stand on. They have no rights at all. Introducing greatly expanded minimum rights to copyright works does two things:

1. It reduces the “all or nothing” efficacy of current licensing arrangements; and
2. It must necessarily favour some variant of licensing over others.

So I’m – er – unconvinced.

meika
2021 years ago

default settings are very powerful, most people run their lives on default

basing things on defaults also recognises that people reject options more than they choose options, that we run our lives by comparing against a default (unconsious legacies in particualr) without much thought and reject as we go

the idea that we choose after some consideration and comparison is a furphy, these times are conscious exceptions, most people do not do this as common as believed, no one has time, especially if they have kids, one of mine is screaming right NOW!!!! goodbye

any process that takes notice of this make well be a better process

of course what the actual defaults are will get all the moral panic merchants up in no time

their defaults have been upset!

John Quiggin
John Quiggin
2021 years ago

You’ve pretty much anticipated the point I was going to make in my next post on this topic. Particularly in relation to finance, Shiller has a lot of good stuff on this.

Patrick
2021 years ago

Here’s a default that’s been mentioned a few times, next time the driver’s licence is renewed, you are an organ donor unless you chose not to be.

Nicholas Gruen
2021 years ago

Great – thx Patrick. I remember it being pointed out now. But its precisely that kind of thing I’m after. Any others people?

James Farrell
James Farrell
2021 years ago

Well, writers can use defaults to save space (a sort of transaction cost, I guess). In one of Martin Amis’s books he says something like: ‘I was sitting in my armchair smoking a cigarette… Look, just assume unless otherwise specified that I’m smoking a cigarette..’

derrida derider
derrida derider
2021 years ago

I think you’re dreaming if you think the US corporates would stand for a scheme where Creative Commons was the default – and that means it’ll never happen.

But some simple copyright renewal scheme is probably doable. Instead of the US Congress giving them their (outrageously extortionate) 70 years, why on earth didn’t they just keep the old (only slightly less extortionate) 50 years as a default but allow renewal for a further 20? This overcomes the worst feature of the extension – that it prevents people from even publishing “orphaned” works that no-one benefits from. And for natural persons a regime of life plus (say) 5 years, with provision for renewal by the heirs for another 40, oughtta be politically doable.

observa
observa
2021 years ago

Registering your car is automatic without annual inspection, until such time as the vehicle is defected. In other words you are assumed to be a responsible owner until such time as you prove otherwise.

Nicholas Gruen
2021 years ago

Yes, that’s great observa. Opens up a whole class of things

Alan Green
2021 years ago

Interesting thought, but I can’t see advantages over a system where IP is available for reuse unless a claim is made, where making a claim is as simple as sticking “(C) Your Name 2005” on the bottom, or registering with a government agency. That’s the system we had in Australia until we signed that ridiculous “free trade” agreement, and it worked very well, thankyou.

James Farrell
James Farrell
2021 years ago

In a way, it’s an argument for the welfare system. Every time I hang up after being solicited by a charity, my reaction is the same. Sometimes I donate, sometimes not, but I always feel annoyed – that my domestic peace has been disturbed; by the spiel itself; and the fact that I’ve been put under moral pressure to make a decision that I don’t have enough information to make. Who is more worthy, the Paraplegic Association or the Salvation Army? How much do they actually need? I don’t have time to find out.

Margaret Thatcher and John Howard are in favour of privatising charity. But I’d much rather donate a given sum to welfare in general, and have a competent, accountable authority work out how it should be best allocated. In fact, I’d be happy to have that authority decide what’s a reasonable amount for each of us to fork out, on criteria of the recipients needs’ and fairness among the donors.

So what about a voluntary charity levy, with a default level based on income? It could be proportional or progressive. It sounds like government, which I’m all in favour of in general, but there would be an opportunity for the selfish to opt out of their moral obligations at a certain point.

Jacques Chester
Jacques Chester
2021 years ago

James,

In the USA there are “clearing house” charities that allow you to donate to hundreds of charities at once, a bit like (to use the apropos analogy) how investment in a super fund can mean having money invested in hundreds of different shares.

United Way have a branch in Australia; or rather some Australian group called United Way seem to have the same scheme:
http://www.unitedway.asn.au/uwa_main.asp

So in fact “private charity” (which is redundant by the way – there’s no such thing as “public charity”) has already beaten you to the punch.

James Farrell
James Farrell
2021 years ago

Jacques

Thanks; I only just saw this. You may have noticed that JQ drew attention to a related idea in this post on Pledgebank: http://johnquiggin.com/index.php/archives/2005/07/12/pledgebank/#comments
In addition to saving transactions costs it addresses the externality problem I was sort of alluding to.