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How a Grocery Shopping Website Can Save America
 Les Pinter

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In May of 1950, a 22-year-old mathematician from West Virginia named John Nash successfully defended his 27-page doctoral dissertation on game theory. He soon descended into schizophrenia and languished in obscurity for decades. His troubled life was documented in the film A Beautiful Mind, in which he was portrayed by the Australian actor Russell Crowe.

Forty-four years later, the economics profession discovered Nash’s work, and he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics for essentially creating a model for capitalism that eliminated cheating and lying from transactions, and thereby delivered on the promise of perfect competition – the best product at the lowest price. This is what we mean when we talk about the “free market.”

In Nash’s model, every transaction consists of a buyer, a seller, and a third party whose job it is to ensure that each of the two principal parties knows everything that the other party knows. The notion that the Internet could be that third party inspired me to build a website that showed what it could do. Extending that notion to the political realm was a natural evolution.

This book is about what would happen if we used the mechanism of the free market as reformulated by John Nash, together with the amazing power of the Internet, to solve the fundamental problems threatening America: Corporate greed, overcharging, income inequality, inadequate education, unemploymentunemployment, unaffordable medical caremedical care, incivility, crime, and even democracy itself.

The devastation of the middle class is a gathering storm. 100% of the increase in incomes in the United States in the last 20 years has gone to the top one percent, while middle-class income has remained stagnant. Middle-class income (adjusted for inflation) has barely increased since 1964. And income inequality has dramatic effects on wealth distribution: The top 0.1 percent wealth share increased from 7 percent in 1978 to 22 percent in 2012. The result is a gradual enslavement of our citizens, whether they know it or not. Add the effects of growing student loan debt – one of the few types of debt that can’t be discharged in bankruptcy – and slavery is an apt characterization. People won’t tolerate it forever. Injustice is the womb of revolution.

I hope that this book will provide some ideas about what can be done to spare us the ultimate tragedy. That’s worth eight months of my life. I hope that some readers will suggest their own solutions, and in turn inspire others. With Internet technology, and with a renewed determination to solve our problems justly and rationally, we can fix this broken world, and avoid an otherwise inevitable revolution. If the Internet can save us from a cataclysm, that will be its greatest legacy.

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