Altruistic Economics

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Zero sum evaluation
Exchanging conventional money forces the participants' self-expression into a zero-sum framework.

Altruistic Economics is a branch of economics set out by Robin Upton in 2004 in a presentation to the autonomous European Social Forum at the London School of Economics.


By allowing mathematical expression of altruism, Altruistic Economics generalises the standard neoclassical neoclassical model, which is founded on the selfish Homo economicus. Like the neoclassical model, Altruistic Economics assumes people are maximisers, but it breaks the assumption that their welfare is independent of one another. It also abandons the assumption that everyone is identical. Individual human relationships are modelled, so that everyone can specify how they feel about anyone else. Sympathy for someone is defined as a willingness to forego benefit so that they may benefit instead. The altruistic model allows people to explicitly declare sympathy for their friends so that other users can be aware of their feelings and behave accordingly.

Another key innovation of altruistic economics is that is two trading parties do not have to agree on a single price, since no fixed amount of money flows between them. Instead, the parties involved in a transaction independently publish their own evaluations, avoiding the need for negotiation and allowing the system to reflect not only win-lose but also win-win and lose-lose interactions.

Non-zero sum evaluation, giving everyone involved the chance to express themselves independently, allowing for more accurate representation of win-win interactions.

Altruistic Economics is under active development, but no working system has yet been produced, due to the complexity of implementing a Friend2Friend computer infrastructure of personal servers to do the calculations. It therefore remains to be seen whether the aggregate effect of everyone maximising for themselves and their friends will produce an increase in group well being, similar to the aims of the Bhutanese notion of Gross National Happiness. If it does, then Altruistic Economics may form a good basis for an Internet gift economy.

Relationship to "Free Market" Economics[edit]

The observation that market transactions are not zero-sum is common both to altruistic and classical economics. However, traditional economic theories are based on conventional money, which, since it is a zero-sum evaluation system, does not provide a means to model this fact. They are content to assert that as long as such transactions are freely entered into, both parties are benefiting. Altruistic economics, however, because is is non-zero sum, can record the surplus benefit of all parties to a transaction.

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