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Legal support for EA orgs - useful?

I'm Open Phil's in house counsel and would love to talk to you about this! I sent you a message with my contact info.

Comments for shorter Cold Takes pieces

Vipassana meditation aims to give meditators experiential knowledge (rather than theoretical/intellectual understanding) of this conception of self. I think that's what a lot of people get out of psychedelics as well. 

I thought this paper was really interesting: 

The abstract: 

"It is an old philosophical idea that if the future self is literally different from the current self, one should be less concerned with the death of the future self (Parfit, 1984). This paper examines the relation between attitudes about death and the self among Hindus, Westerners, and three Buddhist populations (Lay Tibetan, Lay Bhutanese, and monastic Tibetans). Compared with other groups, monastic Tibetans gave particularly strong denials of the continuity of self, across several measures. We predicted that the denial of self would be associated with a lower fear of death and greater generosity toward others. To our surprise, we found the opposite. Monastic Tibetan Buddhists showed significantly greater fear of death than any other group. The monastics were also less generous than any other group about the prospect of giving up a slightly longer life in order to extend the life of another."

One interesting note: "None of the participants we studied were long-term meditators (Tsongkhapa, 1991), and one important question for future research will be whether highly experienced practitioners of meditation would in fact show reduced fear of self-annihilation." I don't know if they ever did that future research. 

Starting a Small Charity to Give Grants
Answer by MollyOct 04, 202111

Giving money to individuals through private foundations is pretty cumbersome, and requires getting pre-approval from the IRS to run a scholarship program; then you have to stick to the same method of selecting recipients as the one the IRS approved you for, and it generally has to be an open application process. 
If you give money to individuals through a public charity it's a lot easier, but to qualify as a public charity you have to meet certain financial requirements. 
Another way of doing this is to just use a 501(c)4 social welfare organization. The downside is that donations to c4's aren't tax deductible, but the upside is that they are tax exempt (so you wouldn't pay any capital gains on donated assets). Giving money to individuals through a c(4) is easy. 
A last way of giving money to individuals is to give people no-strings-attached prizes in recognition of past accomplishments through a private foundation (a la MacArthur Genius Grant or Nobel Prize). The upside is you can use a private foundation and have maximal discretion over who gets the money with minimal reporting requirements. The downside is that you can't actually require people to do something specific with the money. 

Research Topics in Nonprofit Operations

A couple of quick ideas from a legal perspective:

  • How to differentiate policy advocacy (which c3's are allowed to engage in without limitations) from lobbying (which c3's have significant restrictions on) in non-US systems (e.g. in the US pushing for agencies to adopt regulatory schemes does not count as lobbying, but the distinction between executive agencies and legislative bodies may not translate well to other governmental systems)
  • Effect of China's NGO law (which creates huge barriers to giving/operating in China) on high impact causes (you'd probably need to narrow this down for a 30 page thesis - so maybe choose one specific cause), and what US/non-Chinese orgs can do to work with/around them
  • How the US regulations could better facilitate international giving (e.g. equivalency determination certificates should be good for a duration and not need to be re-issued for every grant, and anti-terrorism legislation should have a negligence standard rather than being basically strict liability)
  • and I second Abraham's suggestion on what US orgs can do to prepare themselves for proposed DAF changes
AMA: Tim Ferriss, Michael Pollan, and Dr. Matthew W. Johnson on psychedelics research and philanthropy

I can think of a few different inter-related lines of effort in advancing the psychedelic movement, that may be most easily divided into:

  1. policy work
  2. scientific research
  3. grassroots work

Do you have a sense of whether the policy work and scientific research are money constrained, talent constrained or both? For someone looking to enter the field what would be

And as far as grassroots work goes, it seems important to keep the movement "respectable" but at the same time it seems important for more people to have personal experiences with psychedelics if they're going to get on board. 

Given that it's hard to be  respectable while advocating for people to run around breaking the law, would should an effective grassroots component to the psychedelic movement look like? And specifically, do you think informal/under-the-table trip sitting/guiding (assume it is well researched, and carefully conducted) a valuable thing to offer to the movement?