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Detailed tips on being helpful

Most of the suggested language sounds condescending and would piss me off if directed at me. 

If You're So Smart, Why Aren't You Governor Of California? (Scott Alexander: Astral Codex Ten)

I'll give it a go: Predictit is illiquid and has roughly a 10% margin of error because of the transaction costs. 5% withdrawal fee (on the gross amount), plus 10% of any profits, plus of course the taxes you'd have to pay. 

If I think Paffrath's chance is actually 0, and he's at 11, do I buy no on Paffrath for 89 cents? At most I'd win 11. Then I lose 6.1 on the fees. Then I lose ~1 on the taxes (and if I lose money instead, I can't deduct it on my taxes). So for my 11 cents of nominal gain I only end up with 3.9. This is for keeping my money locked up for months in advance, when I might be able to make bigger profits elsewhere with the same amount of risk (this does imply predictions closer to the election would tend to be more accurate, since  my opportunity cost of locking up the money is lower and it's more worth making such a bet. But it's also a lot harder for a prospective candidate to use this info). The $850 limit also limits how much money I can make, especially on a bet that is already rated as pretty likely to win, so if my time is sufficiently valuable that is also a consideration. 

And, thinking about this in more detail, Predictit's fee structure actually dis-incentivizes bidding down longshots more than bidding them up. If it has him at 11 and I think his chances are really 22, what happens if I buy the yes on Paffrath contract? My expected value without fees and taxes is 11 cents. But really there's a bifurcated scenario. If I lose, I lose it all and, pay no fees. If I win, I pay 5% on my 100 cent withdrawal, plus 10% on my 89 cent winnings, for a total of 13.9. Plus taxes of ~19. So I keep roughly 56 cents out of my 89 cent winnings. So my real expected value is 63% of the gross expected value of the trade,  vs. the only ~35% of gross expected value on the No bet. Further, my ability to get enough return to make it worth my time is higher. If I put $850 onto the No side at 89 cents, and I win, I get 850*100/89-850=~$105 in gross profits (of which I will then get to keep 35%).  If I bet $850 on the yes side, and he actually wins, I get 850*100/11-850=~$7727. Even adjusting for my probability estimate only being 22%, I get $850 in expectation (of which I keep 63%). So my estimate of my true expected value of making the bet is $37 if I think the market has him rated 11 percentage points too high, or $536 if I think the market has him rated 11 percentage points too low. 

This is very different than how e.g. the stock market works. There, the returns to being smarter than the market  in either direction are symmetrical. If I think an $11 stock is really worth 22, I can buy it and make $11 (and assuming I meet the requirements, can get a margin loan from my broker and have an initial expense of only $5.5, then pay the rest when I sell the stock, so I make $11 on a $5.5 investment.  Similarly, if I think an $11 stock is really worth 0, and I meet the brokerage's requirements for margin trading, I can short sell as much as I want at the $11 price, by putting up a margin amount to cover my risk of loss (usually 50% of the value of the trade), then if I am right, buy the stock at $0 later to cover my trade. So If I short sell $11 of the stock and it goes to 0, my initial investment is $5.5 and I have made $11, the same as if I correctly predicted it was underpriced. 

If Predictit has him at 20%, there's at least a little something to that. But 10% has a high enough probability of being noise that I'd trust the conventional metrics over that. 


Edited because some of my original example math made no sense in light of the actual mechanics of Predictit, and thinking through the mechanics added new insight. 

What is the closest thing you know to EA that isn't EA?

Strong endorse. Long before I came across EA as a movement I had adopted the philosophical foundations of it for religious reasons. Although the specific verses that struck me were not the ones about perfection, which sounds optional, but the greatest commandment, which sounds obligatory:

 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

Matthew 22:37-39. The first didn't really sound actionable beyond state of mind because God doesn't need anything, so the implication is that in practice all one's effort needs to go into the second. And if you actually love your neighbor as yourself, you naturally think about effectiveness, not just intentions. 

Virtues for Real-World Utilitarians

the way you used it seems a lot more normal to me than the political usage

The State of the World — and Why Monkeys are Smarter than You

I got 10 right and was only confident in 1 of my answers that I got wrong. The link I took it at said average is 40% right, which is way off the scores rosling got, so I do wonder if his study replicates. If he's doing the normal thing and testing it all on students, I would expect them to be more pessimistic bc they are in that "everything sucks" phase of life as teenagers, and the media about the same because reporters have a particular bias toward negativity, because it's what they feed on. In fact I am sufficiently confident about the negativity of reporters, both in terms of professional experience and the kind of person who is drawn to the job in the first place, that it makes me rather suspicious to find any group of people that does as poorly as them on the test, and teenagers hate everything is the only explanation I can come up with. 

Law school vs MPP in Australia for those who have strong verbal skills but are weak at maths

Idk about Australia but in America politics is patronage-based and you're not getting a political job without connections. You might get lucky and have those connections right out of school, through professors, work on a campaign, etc., or you might not. And if your boss leaves office you're probably out of a job. So a lot depends on how long it takes you to get connections that have a job opening you want. Also, if you're not in DC, your state capital, or some other policy hub (i.e. major cities where federal agencies have regional offices), your only route into policy may be running for office yourself, which requires being established in your community. 


There is the civil service in theory but even that is political, just in a different way. You won't get a civil service job without experience, and getting experience requires connections. But it's less about having helped your Congressman get elected and more about knowing the DA's cousin so you can get a job as an Assistant DA and then go to work as a fed in 5 years once you have the experience. 

What Makes Outreach to Progressives Hard

I am not ideologically opposed to anything. I am opposed on empirical grounds to Marxism, and approximately indifferent between centrist democrats and what most Americans refer to as "socialism" on the merits.  I am also empirically opposed to anyone referring to themself as a "socialist" in American politics, because it's a bad tactic in the elections that actually affect people's lives. Even in dem-supermajority legislatures, self-described socialists don't make up enough of the caucus to be the deciding vote on an issue that has a clean left-right divide. 


I voted Sanders in 2016 because my uneducated instinct is "progressive good" and because I thought Clinton a particularly weak candidate.  Then I learned how bad his record is on immigration (well to the right of Joe Biden, for example), and have deeply regretted that vote ever since.  EA has moved me somewhat toward the Dem establishment and away from the Left because it has given me the tools to prioritize effectively between issues I care about. Which was something I always knew I should be doing, but didn't know how to do before. I always noticed a strain of America Only-ism in some quarters of the Left that I was uncomfortable with, but it's complicated, because I didn't know how to weigh that against, e.g. the Left not listening to idiots like Larry Summers on economic policy, or the different version of xenophobia that a lot of centrists espouse.  And it turns out that the answer is that politicians have to be evaluated individually based on their support for the global poor and not based on ideology. On the merits, Bernie Sanders and Jamaal Bowman are pretty bad, Joe Biden meh but better than a Republican, AOC is pretty good, Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker great .  Republicans in the Trump era are consistently bad but someone like, idk, Lincoln Chaffee, might have been better than a lot of Dems in the 80s.  And America Only-ism is definitely more common among self-described socialists than among people like Elizabeth Warren who are about as Left ideologically but don't adopt the identity. And at least in my social circles it seems to be even more pronounced among activist types than among politicians. 

What Makes Outreach to Progressives Hard

I am not sure there is value in winning over self-described socialists. There is certainly not if the intention is to get them involved in politics, but I suppose they could be valuable contributors in other career paths if they take a more rational approach to their career than their politics. 

Assuming your values are broadly progressive, the net impact of self-declared socialists' political participation is negative. DSA helped get five Congressional candidates elected in safe Dem seats, and nowhere else.  Looking at Wikipedia's list of current DSA members of Congress, the most conservative district any represents is Jamaal Bowman's NY-16, with a Cook PVI of D+24 (meaning a Democrat typically gets 24 percentage points more here than the national average, and would win 74% to 26% in an evenly divided year.) DSA national did not endorse a winning Congressional candidate in any swing district in 2018 or 2020. I'm not going to go look through their locals' endorsements but I'd bet $100 the same holds true there if anyone wants to do the research. 

And their impacts when elected are bad. The Borgen Project, a nonprofit focused on  advocating for the needs of the global poor, rated Eliot Engel one of the top 10 champions of the global poor in Congress. Jamaal Bowman replaced him with a more isolationist, more nationalist foreign policy. AOC spends millions and millions of dollars that could go to winning a swing district seat on social media ads for herself in her safe Dem seat. 

Sanders did not come close to winning the Democratic nomination. He had a temporary lead that was a quirk of the timing of various primaries. Biden wound up with 2.5x as many delegates as Sanders. 

Politics is far too meta

A lot of the ways that politicians deviate from public opinion have much less meta explanations than this Inadequate Equilibria hypothesis. On marijuana legalization, for example, a lot of politicians' opposition is because police get massive overtime from the drug war, and therefore oppose legalization. Police unions tend to be major political players all the way up to the state level, and often the dominant one at the local level because there are a lot of police and if they  vote as one then it's a significant chunk of the total votes you need to get elected mayor or alderman. You don't need some Keynesian beauty contest. Just normal special interest politics where a small group with a concentrated interest in an issue can matter more than a large group with a more diffuse interest, because the small group is more willing to change their votes based on it.  Same basic structure to the problem of reducing police violence. 


Or take something less partisan and less in the news: overfishing. Normally pro-environment coastal politicians generally support overfishing, very much against the recommendations of the Very Serious People, because fishermen are a sufficiently concentrated interest group to require courting, and of course their interest is in their income today, not some other person's income in a generation. Attorneys general or other elected insurance regulators in coastal states will often take the added step of climate denialism specifically on the subject of anticipated coastal erosion, because coastal homeowners don't want to pay a fair price for insurance or have their resale value lowered by an unfriendly prediction, and will vote out anyone who makes screws them on that. Again, none of this because the media thinks serious politicians have to do it, and if the media covers it at all they will usually agree that it's wrong. But it's all rational vote-seeking. 

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