All of bryanschonfeld's Comments + Replies

Foreign Affairs Piece on Land Use Reform

Thank you--I think the Japan case is especially compelling.

Foreign Affairs Piece on Land Use Reform

Very interesting report! Thanks for reading.

Democracy Promotion as an EA Cause Area

Thanks for this comment Michael--I think you make a great point about risks from malevolent actors. In terms of the longermist economic growth aspect, I was thinking more along the lines of institutional quality in the 1600's explaining a lot of the more recent economic growth trajectories, with substantial consequences for global poverty.

2MichaelA1yOh, yes, something I forgot to mention explicitly was that it sounded like you were talking primarily about timescales of centuries, which I don’t think is typically what longtermists are focused on. I think the typical view among longtermists is something like the following: "If things go well, humanity - or whatever we become - could last for such an incredibly long time that even a very small tweak to our trajectory, which lasts a substantial portion of that time, will ultimately matter a huge deal.* And it can matter much more than a larger 'boost' that would ultimately 'wash out' on the scale of years, decades, or centuries." This isn't to say that economic growth isn't important for longtermists, but rather that, if it is important to longtermists, that may be primarily because of its effects on other aspects of our trajectory. E.g., existential risk. (And it's currently not totally clear whether it's good or bad for x-risk, though I think the evidence leans somewhat towards it being good; see e.g. Existential Risk and Economic Growth [https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/xh37hSqw287ufDbQ7/existential-risk-and-economic-growth-1] . Other sources are linked to from my crucial questions series.) Though growth could also matter more "directly", because a faster spread to the stars may reduce the ultimate astronomical waste. (There are also longtermists who may not care about astronomical waste, such as suffering-focused longtermists.) In any case, the way you made the argument felt more "medium-termist" than "longtermist" to me. I share that feeling partly because it may provide useful info regarding how persuasive other longtermists would find that argument, and whether they feel it's really a "longtermist" argument. *If you want to be mathy, you can think of this as the area between two slightly different curves ultimately being very large, if we travel a far enough distance along the x axis.
Democracy Promotion as an EA Cause Area

Thank you so much for this comment. The evidence from a bunch of good papers seems to suggest that it's about incentives to make democratic reforms. In terms of whether EA could contribute enough money---the Carnegie and Marinov paper I cite finds small but still noticeable improvements in democracy in response to relatively insignificant increases in conditional aid from the EU (for example, going from 20 million dollars in aid to 25 million).

Democracy Promotion as an EA Cause Area

Thank you for this comment--I think one advantage of the Acemoglu et. al. (2019) paper published in the Journal of Political Economy (https://economics.mit.edu/files/16686) is that it accounts for the economic crises that generally precede transitions to democracy--democracies initially grow slowly as they emerge out of depressions, and then grow faster as they invest in capital, education and health. One reason existing studies had found mixed effects is that they hadn't properly accounted for these dynamics. I think there are also strong second-order ef

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5MichaelA1yI haven't read any of the papers cited here, nor am I especially well-versed in relevant areas of economics. But my initial reaction to "Most of the biggest growth accelerations have occurred in autocracies" is that that sounds like a correlation that's relatively unlikely to be explained by autocracy causing more growth, and relatively unlikely to conflict with the idea that democracy causes better growth (with all other factors held constant). In particular, I've heard it argued that "catch-up" growth is substantially easier than "cutting-edge" growth. If that's true, then that might suggest autocracies might have experienced growth accelerations more often than democracies not because being an autocracy causes a higher chance of having a growth acceleration, but rather because: * it happens to be that autocracies have less often been on the "cutting edge" than democracies, so they've more often been able to engage in "catch-up" growth * on top of that, being an autocracy makes it more likely that a country will have deceleration episodes, which then creates additional opportunities for "catch-up" growth A related or perhaps identical possibility is that autocracies may sometimes implement policies that actively harm their economies in major ways, such that merely removing those policies could cause rapid growth. (I have in mind the transition from Mao's policies to Deng Xiaoping's policies, though I don't know much about that transition, really.) This is all rather speculative. I'd be interested to hear thoughts on this from someone with more knowledge of the area.
Democracy Promotion as an EA Cause Area

I think this a really strong argument in favor of democracy promotion. Thank you for your comment!

Democracy Promotion as an EA Cause Area

Thank you so much for these thoughtful comments! A few responses:

  1. While there are of course differences of opinion on this issue outside of the research community, the social science research literature universally considers Russia and Iran to be non-democratic (see for example, the Polity IV project or the recent Acemoglu et. al. 2019 Democracy dataset). These regimes might be considered "competitive authoritarian" regimes (see Way and Levitsky) or hybrid regimes/"anocracies"--the benefits of democracy stated in the article do not apply to these states

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