Preliminary notes: This post focuses specifically on (and is, in large part, only applicable to) European politics. The ideas presented primarily run on my intuitions and are informed by my experience as a low-level party politician of a governing party in a major European country. I will try to post a more coherent and significantly more data-driven version soon, perhaps alongside a concrete sketch of a potential org.
Effective Altruism (EA), for all it's worth, is a rather limited political actor. While it has many obvious political goals, it remains a peculiar political advocate and electoral politics specifically is an undervalue cause area. When EA does act as a political advocate, its main targets are usually found only at the very highest institutional level. Its efforts are aimed almost exclusively at the bureaucratic arms of the United Nations, the US government, and European Union institutions. The stated lobbying goals are certain regulatory stances on certain issues - we tend to sometimes call this a part of improving institutional decision-making. Its target is policymaking - not politics.
This, I will argue in the following, leaves two gaps. For one, it underestimates electoral influence on regulatory stances. This, at least in a European context, would be much better addressed at a party level. Secondly, this type of lobbying effort also lacks concrete electoral democratic legitimacy. Though, this is more of a meta point.
The intention of this post is certainly not to demonize EA lobbying efforts. Nor do I want to see them reduced. I believe these efforts are mostly net-positive and ought to be intensified. I more so want to offer a concurrent option aimed at expanding coverage to the wider electorate.
I will build this case around the upcoming European Parliament elections: In 2024 more than 400 million people in 27 countries will be eligible to vote - making these elections the largest fully democratic election worldwide. This election will - with the power of the European Parliament within the European institutional framework expected to increase - set the stage for five key years in terms of more political policymaking. It will also provide unprecedented communicatory access and political spotlight. This access and this spotlight will mostly be afforded directly to prominent and promising candidates as well as their parties.
The European elections will most likely be held in June of 2024, roughly 14 months from today. Though, in part, the election is already underway. A first wave of promising candidates can be seen currently maneuvering themselves into position. And we can also see that the established ‘big’ parties have started working on (albeit preliminary) electoral agendas and are in the process of forging convincing political (European Union-centered) narratives. The way European party politics is set up allows for great access in terms of policy influence and candidate placement and, in my opinion, makes this project a feasible one.
With how urgent action on certain EA policy items is (e.g. AI Safety, Biorisks), we'd be amiss to pass up this is a once-in-five-year opportunity to bring EA policy items and EA-aligned candidates into the mainstream European political discourse. This, I believe, has two major upsides: First, any elected Effective Altruist would be a win in and of itself. This would grant access to parliamentary tools and proper political media coverage. Second, it would allow EA to escape its existential niche. It would contribute by bringing EA language and EA causes into the general population and would thus allow for better debates about, say, existential risk.
This leaves us with two central areas of operations:
- How can EA convince political parties and candidates to include EA policy and EA cause areas within their agenda?
- How can EA motivate and accelerate politically-minded EAs to be in a position to succeed electorally?
I am still in the process of working out more definitive answers to these questions, but I believe that a project/org specifically dedicated to the 2024 European Parliament elections would not only be a promising way to test EA’s political viability but might, if successful, deliver a significant boost in political power and publicity.
Would love to hear some feedback, especially from my fellow Europeans and/or politically active EAs. Thanks! :)