How to tell good health footprint labels from bad ones?


There are different ways to help us tell which health footprint labels are good, so that we can follow only their advice: 


The Prior-Reputation Route

…is to appoint an existing, large, and already reputable organization to examine health footprints in some area and to identify which are good. Investors, consumers, regulators, and other agents can then look to that reputable organization’s “meta-label”, which guarantees that a certain health footprint is a good one.

Once there are many health footprint labels and together they cover the key aspects of some industry sector’s impact on health, that reputable organization could seek to weave all health footprint label rankings into one “overall” label for companies in that sector. For example, it may name the oil company with the best (or least bad) global health footprint.


The Liquid-Democracy Route

…is to create an “umbrella” of good health footprint labels, as determined by an e-collaboration of internet subscribers. Crucially, individual subscribers would be encouraged to delegate their “votes” on health footprint labels under consideration to other subscribers (proxies) whom they trust more than themselves on the relevant matter. Any proxy would be similarly invited to delegate her combined voting power to another, whom she trusts more, and so on.

As an imaginary example of how liquid democracy would help select good footprints, consider the matter of whether to accept Dollars for Doctors to the umbrella organization. Subscriber Adam Eyal, who knows little about health but wants to help, would do wisely to add his vote automatically to any vote cast by trusted fellow subscriber Doctors Without Borders (MSF)—if that famous organization is a subscriber. MSF, trying to be helpful but realizing that they specialize in disaster medicine not in conflicts of interests (which is the area covered by Dollars for Doctors), might delegate their combined vote (their original vote, Adam Eyal’s, and the vote of any other subscriber who trusted them) to one of the global experts in the latter area known to most doctors—say, to subscriber Marcia Angell from Harvard Medical School. And Angell should be in an excellent position to confidently decide this matter (or, if some specific issue is outside her personal expertise, in an excellent position to know who exactly to delegate her combined vote to).