We truly do live in interesting times

kbog's Comments

An Effective Altruist "Civic Handbook" for the USA (draft, calling for comments and assistance)

1. But WHY do you believe that the costs outweigh benefits? Again - the paper looking at Ethiopia estimated that benefits of lower prices outweighed costs on average. This seems intuitively sensible, too - if we sell subsidized low-priced goods, it should increase their wealth in the short run at least.

2. It could be - and there are also many other ways to address vulnerability to spikes in global commodity prices, as described in the last paper I linked. Of course none of these solutions is perfect and simple otherwise the problems would not exist anymore. I think we should look at the likely consequences within current regimes rather than assuming that countries/societies will get much better at responding to problems.

3. But you see how it's a tradeoff, right? People can specialize in farming or they can specialize in other trades, not both. There can be different people doing different jobs, but every person who becomes a farmer is neglecting the possibility of specializing in something else. If a country has an industrial policy it will have to make a tough choice of what industries it wants to specialize in.

I am adding these considerations to Candidate Scoring System, which is more of an encyclopedia with all kinds of policy issues, but for the Civic Handbook I think I will leave the matter out as it does not have the kind of clear argumentative support necessary to build an Effective Altruist consensus.

An Effective Altruist "Civic Handbook" for the USA (draft, calling for comments and assistance)

Regarding food aid, you showed a couple papers discussing negative impacts from 'food dumping', subsidized agricultural exports from wealthy countries to poor ones. A topic that you studied in detail.



I did not read all of the text, but they mainly say: the foreign impact is that it displaces farmers. We send cheap exports, which are in fact cheaper than what a free market would produce, for a combination of reasons but mainly because of our agricultural subsidies. This puts farmers in the aid-receiving country out of work because they cannot compete.

My immediate objection is, why believe that the costs to farmers outweigh the benefits to consumers? If food is lower-priced then that should help many people. I found this paper arguing that the consumer benefits outweighed the hit to farming, on average, for households at all income levels in Ethiopia. It was not cited by either of the papers listed above.

The 1st article also says that dependence on food imports creates vulnerability to price spikes, citing this paper. But local food sources are volatile too, no? Local weather patterns, political instability, plant diseases, etc can create local price spikes. I imagine this would be worse than volatility in global commodity prices. Now, you can have imports step up to cover local price spikes, but you can also have local production step up to cover global price spikes. The former may be easier, but overall I just don't see good reason to believe that dumping increases price volatility.

There is then the long-run question of whether a country should develop its agricultural sector vs other sectors. The 1st paper touches on this. I will have to think/read more on this, or maybe you can better answer it.

An Effective Altruist "Civic Handbook" for the USA (draft, calling for comments and assistance)

1. OK, I am emboldening key sentences now. Not entirely sure if I like it though.

2. Thanks, I replied in comments within the document.

An Effective Altruist "Civic Handbook" for the USA (draft, calling for comments and assistance)

Done though I still haven't identified a proper catchy name. "Effective Altruist civic handbook" was just meant as a placeholder.

Why not give 90%?

You can receive answers to these claims by making a dedicated thread rather than hijacking the current one.

Why not give 90%?

To respond to the on-topic part of your post (I also downvoted because it's mostly off-topic), I don't see how you can shrug off the benefits of donating >10% as if 10% is good enough, while also saying that we must interview and read whole swathes of additional papers and people in the hope that some of it might be useful for achieving better cause prioritization. If you really want Effective Altruists to capture the benefits from reading non-Western scientific literature, then clearly you don't think that we can shrug our shoulders and say that we're good enough, and should recognize that donating more money is another way we can similarly do better. The two are actually fungible, as you can donate money to movement growth with advertisements targeted to foreign countries, or you can donate to cause prioritization efforts with researchers hired to survey, review and summarize the fields of literature that you think are valuable.

Why not give 90%?

You're assuming that the probability of giving up each year is conditionally independent. In reality, if we can figure out how to give a lot for one or two years without becoming selfish, we are more likely to sustain that for a longer period of time. This boosts the case for making larger donations.

Moreover, I rather doubt that the probability of turning selfish and giving up on Effective Altruism can be nearly as high as 50% in a given year. If it were that high, I think we'd have more evidence of it, in spite of the typical worries regarding how we can hear back from people who aren't interested anymore.

Also, this doesn't break your point, but I think percentages are the wrong way to think about this. In reality, donations should be much more dependent upon local cost of living than upon your personal salary. If COL is $40k and you make $50k then donate up to $10k. If COL is $40k and you make $200k then donate up to $160k.

People whose jobs are higher impact/higher-salary (they are correlated due to donation potential if nothing else) are likely to face more expensive costs of living and are also likely to obtain greater benefits from personal spending (averting a 1% chance of personal burnout is much more important if your job is high-impact, saving an hour out of your week is much more important if your hourly wage is higher, etc). So the appropriate amount of personal spending does scale somewhat with income. However this effect is weak enough that I think it makes more sense to usually think about thresholds rather than percentages.

Voting is today (Tuesday March 3) in California and other states - here are recommendations

New candidates have never served in Congress and therefore do not have legislative track records on animal welfare, and it's such a minor issue to most voters that candidates almost never express their views on it while running for office.

Candidate Scoring System recommendations for the Democratic presidential primaries

(Sorry for late reply)

First, did you see the truthfulness part? I rated candidates per their average truth/lies to the public, according to PolitiFact. That's not identical to what you're asking about, but may be of interest.

Biden does relatively poorly. Sanders does well, though (and I haven't factored this in, maybe I should) he seems to have a more specific and serious trend of presenting misleading narratives about the economy. Warren does well, though I did dock some points for some specifically significant lies. Bloomberg seems to be doing quite well, though he has less of a track record so it's harder to be sure.

OTOH, it seems like you're primarily concerned about epistemics within an administration - that there might be some kinds of political correctness standards. I've docked points from Trump because there have been a number of cases of this under his watch. Among Democrats, I feel there would be more risk of it with Sanders, because of how many of his appointments/staff are likely to come from the progressive left. Even though he's perceived as a rather unifying figurehead as far as the culture wars are concerned, he would likely fare worse from your angle. But I feel this is too speculative to include. I can't think of any issues where the 'redpill' story, if true, would be very important for the federal government to know about. And there will not be a lot of difference between candidates here.

EA forum user Bluefalcon has pointed out that Warren's plan to end political appointments to the Foreign Service may actually increase groupthink because the standard recruitment pipeline puts everyone through very similar paces and doctrine. Hence, I've recently given slightly fewer points to Warren's foreign policy than I used to.

Load More