Vol. 25 (Issue 1) pp. 116-129

Merit signal – The Éminence grise of economic systems

Alexander Zatko

Independent researcher, Email alexander.zatko@gmail.com


A number of economists, including Smith, Veblen, Keynes and others believed that status seeking plays dominant role in motivation to work. Contemporary research supports the notion and finds that people generally desire status not as a means, but as a goal in itself. Evidence further suggests, that the proportion of resources used for status signaling is commensurate with one’s income level. Referring to the global phenomenon of volunteering and evidence from fields like anthropology or labor economics, we argue that as equally effective motivators as status can be signals mediated by non-pecuniary awards, like verbal praise, impact indices in the academic domain, or reputation scores on the internet. Based on these observations, we propose a new type of dual work reward, where the motivationally salient psychological signal – the “merit” reward – is separated from the exchange value reward, has its value determined by the market and is granted in a symbolic, non-tradable form. The exchange value reward is commensurate with actual effort, measured in units of labor time. We claim that an economic system with such remuneration mechanism can be both efficiency improving and instituted bottom-up.


SDT, merit, signaling, economic system, status, volunteering

Article Zatko

To cite this article:

Zatko, A, (2021) ‘Merit signal – the éminence grise of economic systems’ International Journal of Community Currency Research Volume 25 (Issue 1) 116-129; http://www.ijccr.net; ISSN 1325-9547; DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.15133/j.ijccr.2021.009