130Joined Jul 2022


Answer by RiverJan 24, 20233610

I think EA is at its best when it takes the high epistemic standards of LW and applies them to altruistic goals. I see the divergence growing, and that worries me.

What is the EA that you think should do this re-examining? In what sense is something that has different beliefs still EA? If an individual re-evaluates their beliefs and changes their mind about core EA ideas, wouldn't they leave EA, go do something else, EA gets smaller, newer better philosophies get bigger, and resources therefor get allocated as they should?

I actually think EA is inherently utilitarian, and a lot of the value it provides is allowing utilitarias to have a conversation among ourselves without having to argue the basic points of utilitarianism with every other moral view. For example, if a person is a nativist (prioritizing the well being of their own country-people), then they definitionally aren't an EA. I don't want EA to appeal to them, because I don't want every conversation to be slowed down by having to argue with them, or at least find another way to filter them out. EA is supposed to be the mechanism to filter the nativists out of the conversation.

David, how do you reconcile your implication that there is a norm to get a "special dispensation" from with CEA's claim that EA "doesn’t say anything about how much someone should give"?

Answer by RiverNov 28, 202210-3

I think the reason this hasn't been proposed in a forum post yet is because it would be movement suicide. Suppose you are Moskovitz, and CEA comes to you and says they want you to hand over all of your personal financial records, all kinds of Facebook business records, etc, to some random law firm or whoever to do the audit. What do you think? How do you feel? Obviously you aren't going to do it - that's an insane invasion of your personal privacy, and would reveal a lot of confidential information about your Facebooks business in violation of business norms if not legal agreements. Probably you are going to feel insulted. Certainly you can find plenty of other non-EA charities that would be happy to take your money and say "thank you" no questions asked. You'll probably just do that.

The reality of the situation is that if Moscovitz is another SBF, then EA is screwed. We can't mitigate the risk by seriously investigating Moscovitz. The mitigation strategies available are to see to our own governance better - be prepared to loose funding - take any opportunities to diversify funding sources, build up savings ("endowments") to see us through hard times, document our activities so that if we have to shut down for a few years due to lack of funding, people can pick up the pieces and restart when funding becomes available again.

I love this intro! I especially like that it defines EA in terms of finding the most effective interventions, the ones that do good most efficiently with whatever inputs they take, rather than doing the most good in an absolute sense.

Answer by RiverAug 06, 202210

If you get a $50K grant, is this better or worse on net than earning $50K of traditional W-2 employment income?

Worse, easily, but it costs them less. If a regular employer pays you a $50k salary, that is costing them more like $75k or $100k or something - they are paying part of the taxes, and the benefits, on top of the salary. So the real comparison is between a $50k salary and a $75k or $100k grant, in which case I would say the grant is better because you have more flexibility about benefits. Don't have any dependents? As a grantee you can just not buy life insurance, and spend the money on something else. As an employee, you may not have a choice.

For tax efficiency, should grant recipients optimally incorporate themselves as an S-corporation, or a charitable foundation, or something else?

This is not legal advice, but my guess would be no. When a nonprofit pays its employees (which is what you would be if you set up a nonprofit and pay yourself), the employee still has to pay income tax on that just like anyone else, and the nonprofit still has to pay its share of social security taxes and such. For a typical EA job, if you aren't employing anyone, or taking out loans for your work or something, you also don't get any advantage in terms of liability. Incorporation does not protect you when you do something stupid. Incorporating protects you when someone else in your organization does something stupid. This is not useful if there is noone else in your organization.

How do EA freelance researchers deal with the things that are typically provided through the employer/employee relationship — things like healthcare, disability insurance, retirement savings accounts, and so forth?

I was self employed for years. Health insurance is easiest through obamacare but you could buy it form any insurance company. For savings, I used IRAs, and if you max those out there are other accounts available to the self-employed. I didn't have disability insurance, but I imagine that can also be bought from an insurance company. But yes, you have to decide what benefits you want and go buy them yourself.