8156 karmaJoined May 2016


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It's worth pointing out that this is a very small portion of GiveDirectly's funding, far smaller even than their delivery and fundraising costs (across all regions), which have been around $15-25 million per month. $150,000/month=$900,000/6 months is smaller even than the month-to-month differences in their total delivery and fundraising costs.


It might not be worth doing much about it, in case the costs to prevent fraud exceed the expected losses to fraud. Of course, there are issues of confidence/trust and potentially underestimating the risks of future fraud. If they don't do anything, they may invite much more fraud.

(I haven't read the report.)

This is interesting, but only 3x marginal cost-effectiveness of GiveWell's top charities is not that impressive given that GiveWell's are supported by RCTs and careful adjustments, whereas there aren't going to be very relevant RCTs on affecting policy or supporting innovation, so the evidence for direct impact is weaker. When you loosen evidentiary standards and are willing to make more bets with weaker links in your causal chain, I suspect you can do even better than 3x, at least if you're moving much less money than GiveWell and its top charities.

I wouldn't be surprised if fundraising for GiveWell's top charities (via GWWC, TLYCS, OFTW, Founders Pledge) beat 3x GiveWell's top charities, although presumably you could fundraise for GIF instead and do even better. And then there are different cause areas entirely, instead of global health and development.

On the other hand, Open Phil seems to have found it hard to beat GiveWell's top charities for helping humans alive today even while loosening these standards, so maybe it is very hard, and either GIF is in fact doing really well, or we should be more skeptical that they've succeeded in beating GiveWell's top charities 3x: https://www.openphilanthropy.org/research/givewells-top-charities-are-increasingly-hard-to-beat/

My mistake.

I think flow-through effects would only change the analysis if they can compound long enough at a high enough rate or the marginal cost-effectiveness of the best interventions decreases enough over time. If the relative increase in benefits from the charity per year since intervening decrease enough, or even to 0, and the same intervention (or another) will be available at the same cost-effectiveness in the future, then you can just think of it like shifting when the flow-through effects happen.

GiveWell includes benefits from the long-term increase in income in their malaria cost-effectiveness analyses for AMF and MC, and it accounts for 14% to 43% of the value generated by the intervention, or a relative increase of 16% to 75% over the life-saving, depending on the region and charity. They assume it takes 10 years before you even start seeing these benefits, and they discount them 4%/year. Stock returns after discounting 4%/year are higher on average over 10 years, and this comparison is unfair to stocks, because the value of the flow-through effects has to be spread out over the beneficiary's lifetime, not just 10 years.

As far as I can tell, they don't consider other economic effects, e.g. on other people besides immediately family. Maybe it should be passed through to their descendants.

They did briefly discuss investment-like giving opportunities in section 2.1.

The same crops are already used for bioethanol before being sold and fed to farmed animals, as distillers grains. Decreasing animal product consumption could therefore reduce bioethanol revenues from selling the byproducts for feed, but it could also reduce input grain costs.

If the pain is so strong he can't focus on and appreciate some good he otherwise would without the pain, isn't this his brain itself deciding the pain is more important? I think this is the cognitive process of motivational salience, which integrates both positive (incentives, pleasure, desire) and negative (aversion, unpleasantness). If (actual or hypothetical/idealized) motivational salience determines importance, then measures of attention during joint exposure experiments are plausibly more reliable for ranking importance than people's statements, because the latter can be subject to additional biases, e.g. believing your commitments, especially to others, are more important than your pain serves your self-image as a good person, partner, friend, child or parent.

You could use more direct measures of motivational salience, including while separately exposed to the good or the pain and this is plausibly closer to what we want to actually measure to determine the scale, but I'd expect the same rankings from measuring attention during joint exposure, all else equal. Similarly if you used some measure of felt (hedonic, desire) intensity directly when separately exposed, although I'm less sure positive and negative would even be commensurable with such a measure. I have read attention disruption is one of the functions of pain, so maybe joint exposure experiments would be negatively biased.

However, if reflective preferences are what matter or are part of it, then for those we would probably use people's (and other animal's) statements or choices. We'd still have to worry about some of the same biases in people, though, but then intense pain may especially interfere with reflection. It's also not clear to me how we would construct an absolute scale to use across even humans, let alone across all animals or possible conscious beings. Even if there isn't one, that doesn't rule reflective preferences out, but then the implications seem much less clear. We might get incomparability between beings or even for the same being over time.

(Actual or hypothetical/idealized) motivational salience, felt intensity and reflective preferences could be different kinds of welfare, possibly incommensurable, if they're determined by very different kinds of valuing systems.

The edge of survival is not the only relevant threshold here. Chicken farmers don't own the birds they raise and only raise them when given a contract, so it's not entirely their choice whether or not and when they raise any chickens. From M&H:

Instead, the threshold-triggered event is a particular grower’s failure to get a contract to raise birds at all, or a delay in the next shipment of birds, a switch to a different type of agriculture, or a rancher’s choice to sell her land to a developer.

And even with if their net profit margins were 5.7% on average, many farms could still be on the edge of survival. Also from M&H:

Even in industries that are vertically integrated, like the market for chickens, “growers” often operate with heavy debt, barely above poverty, and parent firms give them only short-term contracts (J. MacDonald 2008).

From MacDonald, 2008:

Net farm income is the difference between gross farm income and operating expenses, and it amounts to 25-27 percent of gross farm income in each size class. Net farm income, however, varies widely among broiler operations, where a quarter of farms experience losses—negative net farm income. Poor productive performance may be one source of negative net income since, on average, operations with negative net farm income receive fees of 4.8 cents per pound, compared with 5.1 cent per pound for those with positive net income. Depreciation is a more important factor explaining differences in net income. On farms with negative net farm income, depreciation expenses account for 39 percent of gross income, on average, compared with 13 percent for other operations. Farms with recent major capital expenditures will usually record substantial depreciation expenses, often large enough to generate negative net farm incomes. Correspondingly, older operations with fully depreciated assets rarely report negative net incomes.

Furthermore, the 20th percentile of household income[1] across broiler farmers was $18,782 in 2011, according to the USDA, and so close to the poverty line at the time. However, the household income for chicken farmers is relatively high recently, in 2020 (USDA).


Also, about differentiation, I don't see what the existence of some small high-cost farms selling to small niche submarkets tells you about the behaviour or competitiveness of the conventional large farms, which account for almost all of the combined market. I don't think it's a case of monopolistic competition; these are just a few separate submarkets, like free range and organic. Maybe those selling locally are acting nearly monopolistically, with the "local" label or by selling to farmers markets, but it also doesn't really matter, because they're selling to a tiny submarket and their supply is very limited. If a kid sets up a lemonade stand in their neighbourhood and sells lemonade above grocery store prices, you wouldn't conclude from this that an individual lemonade company can set higher prices for grocery stores (or distributors?), where almost all of the lemonade is bought, without being pushed out of the market.

  1. ^

    The USDA's definition:

    Household income measures the cash income flowing to a household and available for expenditures during a year. For farmers, household income combines the income that the household receives from off-farm activities with the income that the household receives from the farm business, net of expenses and payments to other stakeholders in the business.

Those are two different kinds of risk aversion: the first is difference-making risk aversion (see this paper and this post that define and criticize it), and the second is (standard) risk aversion, i.e. with respect to outcomes.

I appreciate you pointing out these possibilities. You might indeed be right, and I think it's a position new evidence could end up supporting. However, I don't think you or really anyone would be warranted in believing the average broiler welfare overall to be positive in expectation if they were well-informed about their conditions and the current state of evidence. Maybe we should just withhold judgement. However, using Welfare Footprint Project's analysis, and being, like them, careful in the attribution of welfare states and more careful the more intense, there would be more expected pain than expected pleasure.

I do think it's plausible the default (e.g. most common) welfare state for wild red jungle fowls, i.e. the chicken's wild progenitor and counterpart, is positive, or at least that positive is more common than negative. I might even lean somewhat towards that, but it depends on how common the threat of predators is and how long-lasting the negative effects of predator exposure are. But this and comparisons to humans (which ones?) are quite weak priors from which to conclude broilers frequently experience pleasure of intensity similar to hurtful pain just from sitting/resting, and there are multiple reasons to be skeptical or even expect negative welfare instead. Conventionally farmed chickens are in very unnatural, monotonous and limiting environments, often have painful and limiting health conditions and face multiple chronic stressors their wild counterparts don't face. Their environments are especially not conducive to high baseline moods or much good to attend to when they're not active, and they also contain substantial bad.[1]

On comparisons to wild animals, as foragers, I don't imagine red jungle fowls would often be at risk of starvation in the wild, and in fact a decent share of broilers (or hours of broiler life) suffer from hunger and thirst, according to WFP: broiler breeders in particular are chronically hungry and food-deprived, and other severely lame broilers also seem to suffer significantly from hunger. I agree that the absence of predators should make a difference (although I'm very uncertain about how much). A condition-informed survey of expert opinion found the welfare of conventional broilers below the cutoff for "acceptable welfare" (although this doesn't imply net negative in particular) and far below the welfare for nature, which was the second highest rated after only backyard flocks. Ratings of nature had relatively high variance, with 3 of the 27 experts even putting it below the acceptability cutoff.


Also, if sitting around is pleasurable at hurtful intensity, and disabling pain is only 10x as intense as hurtful pain, things like fresh large bone breaks (e.g. leg in humans, keel in chickens), the pain of birth without painkillers or anaesthesia, panic attacks, the part of a tattoo experience where it felt "Like someone slicing into my leg with a hot, sharp live wire"  (assuming they are disabling and not excruciating) would only be about 10x as bad as just sitting around is good per minute. I personally find that counterintuitive. Maybe you don't, but it's worth pointing out what the conjunction of views you're defending implies.

  1. ^

    Maybe just sitting is comfortable, but it could be uncomfortable due to poor litter quality (e.g. ammonia buildup) and contact burns/dermatitis, leg pain or heat (although I think the most intense of these are largely already accounted for by WFP). Maybe watching other chickens is interesting, but it could be stressful, given high stocking densities and social dominance. Maybe their inactive non-highly pained moods are based on some kind of mean of their active and pained welfares, like if you have fun often and don’t suffer often, you’ll still be in a good mood when you’re not having fun, and if you’re in pain often, but don’t have much fun, you’ll be in a bad mood even when you’re not in much pain.

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