10Joined Apr 2015


How important are quantitative abilities and your country of citizenship for policy careers?

On the topic of policy work in smaller countries, Founders Pledge write the following in their article about Longtermist Institutional Reform (with my emphasis added in bold):

One potential avenue to encouraging global solutions without acting directly on global institutions is to consider that some small countries can have outsized influence as role models or policy exporters. If it is easier to implement long term-focused policy in these smaller jurisdictions—and there is some evidence that this may be the case—doing so may be of large marginal value.

Also, have a look at this blog post: Why scale is overrated: The case for increasing EA policy efforts in smaller countries - EA Forum (effectivealtruism.org)

If accepting the assumptions above, another reason to work on policy change in smaller countries (as well) is to duplicate efforts. Significant policy change is often dependent on policy windows and luck, and the more efforts in parallell, the bigger chance of success in at least one country. Also, the risk of failure (and potentially politicizing the issue for good) is smaller if in a small country. After several parallell attempts, policy advocates in the US (or other large countries) can refer to the successful example in whatever smaller country where the campaign was successful (NZ, Australia, the Nordic countries, etc.)

How might we rigorously measure the outputs of public investment by default?

The Policy Impacts-project at Harvard University might be of interest to you, including their method for evaluating the impacts of public policies: the Marginal Value of Public Funds (MVPF)

The MVPF-method measures the “bang for the buck” of public spending on a given policy. How? It's calculated as the ratio of two numbers: the benefits that a policy provides to its recipients (measured as  "willingness to pay"), divided by the policy’s net cost to the government (including all long-term effects on its budget).

The Policy Impacts-project are also collaboratively building a Policy Impacts Library, a database of MVPF-estimates for different public policies derived from rigorous empirical research. The goal is to help policymakers and practitioners better understand and compare the long-term costs and benefits of a wide range of policies.

PS. I find this project super interesting, but have not looked into it in detail nor talked to anyone working on it. So there might be obvious weaknesses I'm not aware of.

Identifying the most pressing global problems for an Australian policy context

Really useful work and well-written post with linked resources! 

I'd be curious to see lists of global problems ranked for the policy context of many more countries too, to see how large differences there are and what rare context-related opportunities we might discover (e.g. nuclear weapons in Australia, as argued in other comments here). I think this could also help decide whether or not there's a strong case for increasing EA policy efforts in smaller countries (and where).

Is there something like GiveWell for government programs?

This is super interesting! The Policy Impacts-project at Harvard University, and their method for evaluating the impacts of public policies that you refer to, the Marginal Value of Public Funds (MVPF), is new to me but seems potentially very valuable! 

I recommend any policy-interested EA to check out the links I have provided here (very simple reading), and those from @Schethik above. 

I see that the Policy Impacts project have also created a Policy Impacts Library, a database of MVPF estimates for different public policies derived from rigorous empirical research. 

The case of the missing cause prioritisation research

I fully agree with this!

"it doesn’t feel like the EA community has thought much about policy. For example there is a huge focus on AI policy, but the justification for this is weak. Even if you fully believe the longtermist arguments that top programmers should work on AI alignment, it does not immediately follow that good policy people can have more long term impact in AI policy compared to policy on resilience, macroeconomics, institution design, nuclear non-proliferation, climate change, democracy promotion, political polarisation, etc, etc."

effektiv-spenden.org: 2019 - Year in Review

EA Australia does this as well (for many years), and donations through them are tax deductible. See https://effectivealtruism.org.au/

What Are Effective Alternatives to Party Politics for Effective Public Policy Advocacy?

As an alternative to joining a party and aiming for becoming MP or similar, there's also the option to become a political adviser, and/or to work somewhat politically in the civil service. Although far from rational conditions, positions as advisers seem to demand much less of everything typical "non-EA" that a career as an MP might require, IMO.