Steemit is addressing an interesting economics problem. I read an article many years ago in the Atlantic about how the GDP fails to account for a lot of the good but unpaid work we do in the economy: volunteer activities, taking care of kids, etc. On the other hand, the GDP accounts for a lot of "bad" things like buying home security systems and paying divorce lawyers. Things people would be unlikely to up-vote. Here's the article if you really want to read it:
The GDP, of course, is just an impersonal summation of all monetary transactions. We call it a productivity measure but it doesn't really give us a sense for whether we are producing good or bad things. It's just things. Anyway, with Steemit and platforms of its ilk (which will surely follow), we not only have a way to measure goodness but we can loosen the transactional rigidity built into the GDP. A crypto-based rewards system provides the mechanism to pay for otherwise free labor and gives us a currency that can float in relation to the value produced.
My simple example is a mom who will (almost) always take care of her baby so she doesn't need to get paid for it. So there's no monetary transaction and it doesn't get factored into the GDP. But moms certainly want to be commended for the job they do. Like everyone, they tend to do better when recognized for their efforts. I'm not necessarily advocating a Steemit for moms but you get the point. There's real economic potential in creating Steemit's for a range of human activities.
Will all of this work? One big question is why a crypto-based rewards system has any relationship to other currencies, but it does. The market has already told us that. The price might be too high (who knows) but I suspect the underlying reason for any price is that we envision an ecosystem of services provided in the Steemit fashion. We also envision a time when currencies like STEEM will be tradeable for other such services or things in the traditional economy. In other words, despite my attitude toward the transactional nature of the GDP, the fact is that currencies exist because things can be purchased with them. I don't know exactly how this is going to happen but we have solid reason to hope.
Steemit is a good test case for some fundamental ideas in economics, not to mention the social sciences in general. The team is to be commended for taking a bold first step.