I haven't ported the citations to this format yet, fyi

Best Consequentialists in Poli Sci #1 : Are Parliaments Better?

My professor Hans Noel is featured in the article. Nice.

My mistakes on the path to impact

I have a friend who is making the first two mistakes. They are in a different field from EA but similar totalizing vibe. They rarely apply to jobs that are outside their field-role but which would provide valuable career capital. They are also quite depressed from the long unemployment.

What can I say to help them not make these mistakes?

My mistakes on the path to impact

I disagree Max. We can all recall anecdotes of overconfidence because they create well-publicized narratives. With hindsight bias, it seems obvious that overconfidence was the subject. So naturally we overestimate overconfidence risks, just like nuclear power.

The costs of under confidence are invisible and ubiquitous. A grad student fails to submit her paper. An applicant doesn't apply. A graduate doesn't write down her NGO idea. Because you can't see the costs of underconfidence, they could be hundreds or thousands of times the overconfidence costs.

To break apart the question

  1. Should people update based on evidence and not have rigid world-models. Is people disagreeing with you moderate evidence?
  • Yes to both
  1. Once someone builds the best world-model they can, should they defer to higher-status people's models
  • Much much less often than we currently do
  1. How much should we weight disagreement between our models and the models of others?
My mistakes on the path to impact

Thanks for making this. I experienced similar struggles in young adulthood and watched my friends go through them as well. It sucks that so many institutions leave young people with bad models of job-world and inflexible epistemology. It hits when we most need self-reliance and accuracy. IMO, the university professors are the worst offenders.

My disorganized thoughts

  1. Trusting your own models is invaluable. When I was 25 I had a major breakdown from career stress (read about it here). I realized my choices had been unimpeachable and bad. I always did "what I was supposed to do". But the outcomes would have been better if I trusted my own models.

There aren't consolation prizes for following socially approved world models. There are just outcomes. I decided to trust my own evidence and interpretation much more after that.

  1. It stuns me how often young people under-apply for jobs. The costs of over-applying are comparatively small. How to talk my friends out of it?

  2. I'm not sure you took risks, in an emotional sense. Under-applying protects against rejection. Loyalty protect against abandonment. In the moment, applying to an additional job and exploring a new career path feel very risky. I generally encourage young people to apply for tons of things, try new fields and move to new (developing) countries. I believe the strategies that feel risky are often the most effective, since they differentiate you and offer new skills. Maybe "risk" is the wrong heuristic for young people, who understand the world too little.

Best Consequentialists in Poli Sci #1 : Are Parliaments Better?

Great question! That is an incorrect interpretation, but this is the fault of the authors for their terrible reporting of the results not maintaining their reproduction data. I noticed the problems after writing.

Basically, those coefficients are the effect of one more year of parliamentarism in your history. So the .004 coefficient on corruption control means that 100 years of parliamentarism (1901-2001) is associated with a .4 increase.

I would also note that the dummy factors are stacked against parliamentarism. Think of it this way. In around 1880, Europe. East Asia and the Commonwealth chose parliamentarism while Latin America, the Francophone countries and (later) Africa chose presidentialism. We can't know if parl is the reason governance is worse in the later group, so we assume the reason is something else. But this is a strong assumption, we cannot rerun history and give the Norwejian constitution to Chile. So you should update up a bit toward parliamentarism.

To take import duties for example. If you keep country dummies in, 50 years of parl is associated with a 2.5% decrease in duties, half the impact of being a democracy. If you remove the continent dummies, then 50 years of parl is about as good as being a democracy.

Generally I would multiply the effect of parl by 50 then compare it to gdp per capita to ballpark total effect.

Best Consequentialists in Poli Sci #1 : Are Parliaments Better?

Good question. The key is that Gerring's paper ADJUSTED FOR DEMOCRACY. So it really means that "parliaments are better when they successfully become democracies", not "parliaments are better in general". This is a big stupid on Gerring's part. I just noticed it and am mad. Anyway-

South Sudan becoming a democracy was very hard due to the proto-state institutions before independence. Ethno-nationalist patrimonial warlord autocracies dominated pre-independence South Sudan and had effectively won their independence in a long and bloody civil war. And there were two warlordships of similar power and ethnic bases (and polygamy). Describing the main factions can get long and complicated and I could easily make a mistake. I'll just talk about three groups, the majority SPLM faction (mostly Dinka), the minority SPLM faction (mostly Nuer) and the International Community. I'm not an expert, so consider this a guess.

For the head of the majority faction (Salva Kiir) presidentialism is good because it concentrates power and patronage opportunities in his hands. He wants the presidency to have strong independence from the legislature. Remember the legislature is full of his lackeys. Being subservient to 300 lackeys makes corruption hard; capable people sneak in and bribes are more expensive (See Bueno De Mesquita, selectorate theory). This is the main reason, IMO.

For the head of the minority faction (Riek Machar), presidentialism also sounds nice because the upper house represented provincial governments. So the Nuer-dominated provinces have institutionalized power, maybe a veto. Note that war broke out a few months after Salva Kiir fired his ministers to consolidate power.

For the international community, the main thing is making sure that the government splits the money fairly. They know that state capacity will be tiny. In practice, they will be providing the services. But as long as the majority and minority faction are sharing the windfalls into their respective pyramid schemes fairly, a civil war might not happen. The massive corruption must seem fair to each warlord. Presidentialism should make this easier as well (checks and balances, multiple state actors with their own mandate).

If these actors were maximizing the quality of the health ministry in 20 years, Gerring would have been relevant. But none of them were.

What is the increase in expected value of effective altruist Wayne Hsiung being mayor of Berkeley instead of its current incumbent?

Maybe. That's orthogonal to my comment. I was responding to

My default belief is that a politician implying something he knows the listener wants to hear is not evidence he's believes or will act on that implication.

As to the empirical content of "evidence-based policy", I'm not an expert on that question yet.

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