UnexpectedValues

I'm a theoretical CS grad student at Columbia specializing in mechanism design. I write a blog called Unexpected Values which you can find here: https://ericneyman.wordpress.com/. My academic website can be found here: https://sites.google.com/view/ericneyman/.

Comments

Status update: Getting money out of politics and into charity

Yeah -- I think it's unlikely that Pact would become a really large player and have distortionary effects. If that happens, we'll solve that problem when we get there :)

The broader point that the marginal dollar might be more valuable to one campaign than to another is an important one. You could try to deal with this by making an actual market, where the ratio at which people trade campaign dollars isn't fixed at 1, but I think that will complicate the platform and end up doing more harm than good.

Status update: Getting money out of politics and into charity

Yeah, there are various incentives issues like this one that are definitely worth thinking about! I wrote about some of them in this blog post: https://ericneyman.wordpress.com/2019/09/15/incentives-in-the-election-charity-platform/

The issue you point out can be mostly resolved by saying that half of a pledges contributions will go to their chosen candidate no matter what -- but this has the unfortunate effect of decreasing the amount of money that gets sent to charity. My guess is that it's not worth it (though maybe doing some nominal amount like 5% is worth it (so as to discourage e.g. liberals who care mostly just about charity from donating to the Republican candidate).

Status update: Getting money out of politics and into charity

We want a Republican on our team; unfortunately in our experience Democrats are pretty disproportionately interested in the idea -- and this is in addition to the fact that our circles already have very few Republicans. (This could be a byproduct of how we're framing things, which is part of why we're trying to experiment with framing and talking to Republican consultants.) So we've been unsuccessful so far, but I agree that this is important.

Status update: Getting money out of politics and into charity

This is a cool idea that we hadn't considered. Thank you!

Status update: Getting money out of politics and into charity

This definitely sounds like it's worth trying, and it turns out that there's at least one prominent politician who's a fan of this idea. I do have the intuition that almost none of them would actually do it, because having more money directly benefits their staff.

Status update: Getting money out of politics and into charity

I believe the general name for this sort of thing if "moral trade"; see this paper by Toby Ord: http://www.amirrorclear.net/files/moral-trade.pdf. But yeah, this is something we've struggled with a bit, including trying not to use the word "matching" in our emails describing the concept. I think the best donor-oriented framing we have right now is "making a deal" with a donor for the other side. So maybe "political donation dealmaking"? But that sounds someone clunky to me.

Getting money out of politics and into charity

Ryan, could you point me to "the funders behind Progress studies" you mentioned? I wasn't able to figure out what this refers to by googling. Thanks!

Getting money out of politics and into charity

Thanks. Basically the way I'm thinking about this in my head is: we have some effective charities, and some charities that are meant to encourage people to participate. If we end up getting 10 million in donations, only a quarter of which goes to effective charities, I think that would be a bigger success than getting 1 million in donations, all of which goes to effective charities. I'm thinking about the most effective way to get the platform off the ground, because if it doesn't get off the ground then no money will be sent to charities anyway, and at least my intuition is that it may be helpful to have some charities that are not effective but appealing. (On the other hand, what some people have said about people not wanting to choose between charities and being okay with whatever has made me update against this.) Do you think this strategy would be misguided?

Getting money out of politics and into charity

Thanks! I agree we should talk to an expert on these sorts of things. Probably "sociologist or psychologist" isn't the right category though? I'd guess that talking to someone who specializes in political ads, voter turnout, etc. would be the right person to talk to. I'm curious what other people think.

Getting money out of politics and into charity

Thanks for the thoughts. I agree that the first thing you point out is a problem, but let me just point out: in the event that it becomes a problem, that means that our platform is already a wild success. After all, I'd be very happy if our platform took out single-digit millions of money out of politics (compared to the single-digit billions that are spent). If we become a large fraction of all money going into politics, then yeah, this will become a problem, perhaps solvable in the way you suggest.

Regarding your thoughts on ads, that seems like a plausible hypothesis. But regarding matching funds going toward anti-polarization organizations: well, I'd be quite interested in that if there were effective anti-polarization organizations. And maybe there are, but I'm not aware of any, and I'm not super optimistic.

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