Dangers of Micropayments

21 Jun 2000

I wrote this as a reply to Dinah's comments about supporting web sites with unsolicited voluntary micropayments.

As a devout capitalist, I like supporting that which I enjoy. But there are two things making me shy away from jumping on the micropayment bandwagon. One is that the minute financial support I'd provide would be a net detriment to many. People love appreciation and people love money, but when you combine the two, people can come to feel that they're being paid to produce. There are benefits to having your work funded, especially if it means you can spend more time on it (which is not always true), but if it turns it into a job, the work can suffer.

I'm in favor of feasible micropayments, but I think they'll be more useful for supporting less personal endeavors in which paying the producer won't harm the product.

The other problem I have is political. I want micropayments to be feasible, but I also value my privacy. I strongly prefer a system that provides transaction anonymity to one that further enables authorities and high-bidders to track my actions. The technology exists, but most people don't value privacy much, so it hasn't caught on. And if it did, it would probably be outlawed anyway. But despite the gloomy outlook, I'm not ready to surrender the last bit of privacy to convenience, at least not until doing so gives me more benefit than this appears to.

I'll continue to verbally support people who enrich my life, and to toss coins into the hats of performers who have them. But I'm not ready to toss tracked money, and I'm certainly not ready to throw money at someone who doesn't have a hat out.