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80,000 Hours: EA and Highly Political Causes

this article is crossposted from lesswrong.com

80,000 hours recently posted a guide to donating which aims, in their words, to (my emphasis)

use evidence and careful reasoning to work out how to best promote the wellbeing of all. To find the highest-impact charities this giving season ... We ... summed up the main recommendations by area below

Looking below, we find a section on the problem area of criminal justice (US-focused). An area where the aim is outlined as follows: (quoting from the Open Philanthropy "problem area" page)

investing in criminal justice policy and practice reforms to substantially reduce incarceration while maintaining public safety. 

Reducing incarceration whilst maintaining public safety seems like a reasonable EA cause, if we interpret "pubic safety" in a broad sense - that is, keep fewer people in prison whilst still getting almost all of the benefits of incarceration such as deterrent effects, prevention of crime, etc.

So what are the recommended charities? (my emphasis below)

1. Alliance for Safety and Justice 

"The Alliance for Safety and Justice is a US organization that aims to reduce incarceration and racial disparities in incarceration in states across the country, and replace mass incarceration with new safety priorities that prioritize prevention and protect low-income communities of color."  

They promote an article on their site called "black wounds matter", as well as how you can "Apply for VOCA Funding: A Toolkit for Organizations Working With Crime Survivors in Communities of Color and Other Underserved Communities"

2. Cosecha - (note that their url is www.lahuelga.com, which means "the strike" in Spanish) (my emphasis below)

"Cosecha is a group organizing undocumented immigrants in 50-60 cities around the country. Its goal is to build mass popular support for undocumented immigrantsin resistance to incarceration/detention, deportation, denigration of rights, and discrimination. The group has become especially active since the Presidential election, given the immediate threat of mass incarceration and deportation of millions of people."

Cosecha have a footprint in the news, for example this article:

They have the ultimate goal of launching massive civil resistance and non-cooperation to show this country it depends on us ...  if they wage a general strike of five to eight million workers for seven days, we think the economy of this country would not be able to sustain itself 

The article quotes Carlos Saavedra, who is directly mentioned by Open Philanthropy's Chloe Cockburn:

Carlos Saavedra, who leads Cosecha, stands out as an organizer who is devoted to testing and improving his methods, ... Cosecha can do a lot of good to prevent mass deportations and incarceration, I think his work is a good fit for likely readers of this post."

They mention other charities elsewhere on their site and in their writeup on the subject, such as the conservative Center for Criminal Justice Reform, but Cosecha and the Alliance for Safety and Justice are the ones that were chosen as "highest impact" and featured in the guide to donating

 


 

Sometimes one has to be blunt: 80,000 hours is promoting the financial support of some extremely hot-button political causes, which may not be a good idea. Traditionalists/conservatives and those who are uninitiated to Social Justice ideology might look at The Alliance for Safety and Justice and Cosecha and label them as them racists and criminals, and thereby be turned off by Effective Altruism, or even by the rationality movement as a whole. 

There are standard arguments, for example this by Robin Hanson from 10 years ago about why it is not smart or "effective" to get into these political tugs-of-war if one wants to make a genuine difference in the world.

One could also argue that the 80,000 hours' charities go beyond the usual folly of political tugs-of-war. In addition to supporting extremely political causes, 80,000 hours could be accused of being somewhat intellectually dishonest about what goal they are trying to further actually is. 

Consider The Alliance for Safety and Justice. 80,000 Hours state that the goal of their work in the criminal justice problem area is to "substantially reduce incarceration while maintaining public safety". This is an abstract goal that has very broad appeal and one that I am sure almost everyone agrees to. But then their more concrete policy in this area is to fund a charity that wants to "reduce racial disparities in incarceration" and "protect low-income communities of color". The latter is significantly different to the former - it isn't even close to being the same thing - and the difference is highly political. One could object that reducing racial disparities in incarceration is merely a means to the end of substantially reducing incarceration while maintaining public safety, since many people in prison in the US are "of color". However this line of argument is a very politicized one and it might be wrong, or at least I don't see strong support for it. "Selectively release people of color and make society safer - endorsed by effective altruists!" struggles against known facts about redictivism rates across races, as well as an objection about the implicit conflation of equality of outcome and equality of opportunity. (and I do not want this to be interpreted as a claim of moral superiority of one race over others - merely a necessary exercise in coming to terms with facts and debunking implicit assumptions). Males are incarcerated much more than women, so what about reducing gender disparities in incarceration, whilst also maintaining public safety? Again, this is all highly political, laden with politicized implicit assumptions and language.  

Cosecha is worse! They are actively planning potentially illegal activities like helping illegal immigrants evade the law (though IANAL), as well as activities which potentially harm the majority of US citizens such as a seven day nationwide strike whose intent is to damage the economy. Their URL is "The Strike" in Spanish. 

Again, the abstract goal is extremely attractive to almost anyone, but the concrete implementation is highly divisive. If some conservative altruist signed up to financially or morally support the abstract goal of "substantially reducing incarceration while maintaining public safety" and EA organisations that are pursuing that goal without reading the details, and then at a later point they saw the details of Cosecha and The Alliance for Safety and Justice, they would rightly feel cheated. And to the objection that conservative altruists should read the description rather than just the heading - what are we doing writing headings so misleading that you'd feel cheated if you relied on them as summaries of the activity they are mean to summarize? 

 


 

One possibility would be for 80,000 hours to be much more upfront about what they are trying to achieve here - maybe they like left-wing social justice causes, and want to help like-minded people donate money to such causes and help the particular groups who are favored in those circles. There's almost a nod and a wink to this when Chloe Cockburn says (my paraphrase of Saavedra, and emphasis, below)

I think his [A man who wants to lead a general strike of five to eight million workers for seven days so that the economy of the USA would not be able to sustain itself, in order to help illegal immigrants] work is a good fit for likely readers of this post

Alternatively, they could try to reinvigorate the idea that their "criminal justice" problem area is politically neutral and beneficial to everyone; the Open Philanthropy issue writeup talks about "conservative interest in what has traditionally been a solely liberal cause" after all. I would advise considering dropping The Alliance for Safety and Justice and Cosecha if they intend to do this. There may not be politically neutral charities in this area, or there may not be enough high quality conservative charities to present a politically balanced set of recommendations. Setting up a growing donor advised fund or a prize for nonpartisan progress that genuinely intends to benefit everyone including conservatives, people opposed to illegal immigration and people who are not "of color" might be an option to consider.

We could examine 80,000 hours' choice to back these organisations from a more overall-utilitarian/overall-effectiveness point of view, rather than limiting the analysis to the specific problem area. These two charities don't pass the smell test for altruistic consequentialism, pulling sideways on ropes, finding hidden levers that others are ignoring, etc. Is the best thing you can do with your smart EA money helping a charity that wants to get stuck into the culture war about which skin color is most over-represented in prisons? What about a second charity that wants to help people illegally immigrate at a time when immigration is the most divisive political topic in the western world?

Furthermore, Cosecha's plans for a nationwide strike and potential civil disobedience/showdown with Trump & co could push an already volatile situation in the US into something extremely ugly. The vast majority of people in the world (present and future) are not the specific group that Cosecha aims to help, but the set of people who could be harmed by the uglier versions of a violent and calamitous showdown in the US is basically the whole world. That means that even if P(Cosecha persuades Trump to do a U-turn on illegals) is 10 or 100 times greater than P(Cosecha precipitates a violent crisis in the USA), they may still be net-negative from an expected utility point of view. EA doesn't usually fund causes whose outcome distribution is heavily left-skewed so this argument is a bit unusual to have to make, but there it is. 

Not only is Cosecha a cause that is (a) mind-killing and culture war-ish (b) very tangentially related to the actual problem area it is advertised under by 80,000 hours, but it might also (c) be an anti-charity that produces net disutility (in expectation) in the form of a higher probability a violent crisis in the USA with money that you donate to it. 

Back on the topic of criminal justice and incarceration: opposition to reform often comes from conservative voters and politicians, so it might seem unlikely to a careful thinker that extra money on the left-wing side is going to be highly effective. Some intellectual judo is required; make conservatives think that it was their idea all along. So promoting the Center for Criminal Justice Reform sounds like the kind of smart, against-the-grain idea that might be highly effective! Well done, Open Philanthropy! Also in favor of this org: they don't copiously mention which races or person-categories they think are most important in their articles about criminal justice reform, the only culture war item I could find on them is the world "conservative" (and given the intellectual judo argument above, this counts as a plus), and they're not planning a national strike or other action with a heavy tail risk. But that's the one that didn't make the cut for the 80,000 hours guide to donating!

The fact that they let Cosecha (and to a lesser extent The Alliance for Safety and Justice) through reduces my confidence in 80,000 hours and the EA movement as a whole. Who thought it would be a good idea to get EA into the culture war with these causes, and also thought that they were plausibly among the most effective things you can do with money? Are they taking effectiveness seriously? What does the political diversity of meetings at 80,000 hours look like? Were there no conservative altruists present in discussions surrounding The Alliance for Safety and Justice and Cosecha, and the promotion of them as "beneficial for everyone" and "effective"? 

Before we finish, I want to emphasize that this post is not intended to start an object-level discussion about which race, gender, political movement or sexual orientation is cooler, and I would encourage moderators to temp-ban people who try to have that kind of argument in the comments of this post.

I also want to emphasize that criticism of professional altruists is a necessary evil; in an ideal world the only thing I would ever want to say to people who dedicate their lives to helping others (Chloe Cockburn in particular, since I mentioned her name above)  is "thank you, you're amazing". Other than that, comments and criticism are welcome, especially anything pointing out any inaccuracies or misunderstandings in this post. Comments from anyone involved in 80,000 hours or Open Philanthropy are welcome. 

Comments (57)

Comment author: ozymandias 29 January 2017 02:49:36PM *  13 points [-]

This post seems to me to move somewhat incoherently between:

  • effective altruist charity suggestion lists should not endorse political charities.
  • effective altruist charity suggestion lists should specifically not endorse anti-racist and pro-undocumented-immigrant charities.
  • there is not sufficient evidence to suggest that Alliance for Safety and Justice and Cosecha in specific are effective.

I think dividing these three claims more clearly would make it easier for me to follow your argument.

It would also be more persuasive, for me, if you elaborated more on what your arguments actually were. For instance, on the issue of whether 80,000 Hours should endorse political charities, you mention that it might turn off "traditionalists/conservatives and those who are uninitiated to Social Justice ideology." Of course, an identical critique applies to animal welfare charities: many, many traditionalists/conservatives/non-social-justice-people are turned off by animal welfare activism. And xrisk charities tend to turn off, to a first approximation, everyone. You might, of course, believe that effective altruists should only work on global poverty issues. But it seems like an odd oversight to me to not either address animal welfare and xrisk charities (to which far more money is moved than to Cosecha) or explain why you believe animal welfare and xrisk charities are different.

Similarly, your argument against Alliance for Safety and Justice appears to mostly be that they specialize in helping people of color. To me, this does not seem like an obvious point against them; the question is whether specializing in helping people of color causes more benefit to the world than helping both white people and people of color equally. There is a prima facie case that the former does; after all, many people believe that dysfunctional policing in black and Latino communities leads to both increased crime and mass incarceration. But you seem to disagree, and I'm not sure why. You oppose selective release of black and Latino prisoners (which does not seem to be a policy ASJ is in favor of, although perhaps I'm wrong) and to believe an organization specializing in helping men would be a reducto ad absurdam. I don't, actually, see any problems with donating to an organization that primarily helps men if it seems to be the best way to reduce mass incarceration. Is your belief that it is morally wrong to ever specifically help one group because you believe they are worse off than other groups? (If so, how do you feel about GiveDirectly targeting worse-off people with their cash transfers and having considered the possibility of only transferring cash to women?)

Comment author: the_jaded_one 29 January 2017 03:55:42PM *  4 points [-]

I think dividing these three claims more clearly would make it easier for me to follow your argument: effective altruist charity suggestion lists should not endorse political charities.

This is a rather large topic, I don't think it would be wise to try and specify and defend that abstract claim in the same post as talking about a specific situation. I take it as given, at least here. Perhaps I will do a followup, but I think it would be hard to do the topic justice in, say, 5-10 hours which is what I realistically have.

Of course, an identical critique applies to animal welfare charities: many, many traditionalists/conservatives/non-social-justice-people are turned off by animal welfare activism.

Animal welfare activism is controversial, but it hasn't been subsumed into the culture war in the way immigration, race and social justice have. Some parts of animal welfare activism, such as veganism are left-associated, but other parts like wild animal suffering and synthetic meat most certainly are not. So in my mind, animal welfare activism is suitable for EA involvement.

And xrisk charities tend to turn off, to a first approximation, everyone.

AI-risk as offputting is becoming less true over time, but EA should not be aiming to appeal to everyone. Rather I think that EA should be aiming to not take sides in tribal wars.

Is your belief that it is morally wrong to ever specifically help one group because you believe they are worse off than other groups?

No, but in the specific case of the US culture war I think it is a bad idea to move in the "Black lives matter" direction. In the case of the tradeoff between incarceration and public safety, I don't think there is any good reason to make it into a race issue, because that immediately sends the signal that you are interested in raising the status and outcomes of your "favorite" race at the cost of other races. This is a tradeoff situation where benefits targeted at a specific group will harm people who are not from that group in a fairly direct way.

On the other hand if GiveDirectly gives cash to women in some third world country, and that cash comes from voluntary payments in the west, it is going to be an improvement for everyone in the receiving community as their local economy is stimulated.

Comment author: ozymandias 29 January 2017 05:35:12PM 3 points [-]

I don't think it would be wise to try and specify and defend that abstract claim in the same post as talking about a specific situation. I take it as given, at least here. Perhaps I will do a followup, but I think it would be hard to do the topic justice in, say, 5-10 hours which is what I realistically have.

I am confused. If you took it as given, why bother talking about whether Alliance for Safety and Justice and Cosecha are good charities? It surely doesn't matter if someone is good at doing something that you think they shouldn't be doing in the first place. Perhaps you intended to say that you mean to discuss the object-level issue of whether these charities are good and leave aside the meta-level issue of whether EA should be involved in politics, in which case I am puzzled about why you brought up the meta-level issue in your post.

Animal welfare activism is controversial, but it hasn't been subsumed into the culture war in the way immigration, race and social justice have. Some parts of animal welfare activism, such as veganism are left-associated, but other parts like wild animal suffering and synthetic meat most certainly are not. So in my mind, animal welfare activism is suitable for EA involvement.

I disagree that animal welfare activism hasn't been subsumed into the culture war. For instance, veganism is a much more central trait of the prototypical hippie than immigration opinions are. PETA is significantly more controversial than any equally prominent immigration charity.

I think that wild-animal suffering and synthetic meat are mostly not part of the culture war because they are obscure. I expect that they would become culture-war issues as soon as they become more prominent. Do you disagree? Or do you think that the appropriate role of EA is to elevate issues into culture-war prominence and then step aside? Or something else?

AI-risk as offputting is becoming less true over time, but EA should not be aiming to appeal to everyone. Rather I think that EA should be aiming to not take sides in tribal wars.

Do you mean that EA shouldn't take sides in e.g. deworming, because that's a tribal war between economists and epidemiologists? Or do you mean that they shouldn't take sides in issues associated with the American left and right, even if they sincerely believe that one of those issues is the best way to improve the world? Or something else?

Comment author: the_jaded_one 29 January 2017 05:53:47PM 0 points [-]

I am confused. If you took it as given, why bother talking about whether Alliance for Safety and Justice and Cosecha are good charities?

Well, I am free to both assert that it is a sensible background assumption that it is not usually good for EA to do highly political things, and also argue a few relevant special cases of highly political EA things that aren't good, without taking on the bigger task of specifying and defending my assumption. But I offer Robin Hanson's post as some degree of defence.

I expect that they would become culture-war issues as soon as they become more prominent. Do you disagree?

I disagree strongly for synthetic meat, it will be an open-and-shut case once the quality surpasses real meat. I think wild animal suffering is emotive and will generate debate, but I don't think it will split left-right, mostly because I can't even decide which of {left, right} maps to {wild-suffering-bad, wild-suffering-OK}.

Or do you think that the appropriate role of EA is to elevate issues into culture-war prominence and then step aside?

Well hopefully EA can elevate issues that are approximately-pareto-improvements from irrelevance to broad-consensus, skipping out any kind of war.

that's a tribal war between economists and epidemiologists?

What?

Or do you mean that they shouldn't take sides in issues associated with the American left and right, even if they sincerely believe that one of those issues is the best way to improve the world?

yes, this. And if they do believe that one particular side of the the US/EU culture war is the most important cause, then they should provide rock solid evidence that it is, that deals with the best arguments from the other side as well as the argument from marginal utility of extra effort, which is critically missing in the OP.

Comment author: Cornelius  (EA Profile) 28 July 2017 09:29:06PM 0 points [-]

that's a tribal war between economists and epidemiologists?

What?

I guess you aren't up to speed with worm-wars. Things have gotten pretty tribal here with twitter wars between respected academics (made worse by a viral Buzzfeed article that arguably politicized the issue...), but nobody (to date) would argue EAs should stay out of deworming altogether because of that.

On the contrary precisely because of all this shit I'd think we need more EAs working on deworming.

Of course in the case of deworming it seems more clear that throwing in EAs will lead to a better outcome. This isn't nearly as clear when it comes to politics so I am with you that EAs should be more weary when it comes to recommending political/politicized work. Either way, I think ozymandias's point was that just like we don't tell EAs in deworming to leave the sinking ship, it also seems absurd to have a blanket ban on EA political/politicized recommendations. You don't want a blanket ban and don't mind EA endorsing political charities because as you've said you don't mind your favourite immigration charity being recommended. So the argument between you and ozymandias seems to mostly be about "to what degree."

And niether of you have actually operationalized what your stance is on "to what degee" and as such, in my view, this is why the argument between the two of you dwindled into the void.

Comment author: the_jaded_one 26 October 2017 09:04:10PM 0 points [-]

Thanks for the info on the worm wars, will look into it.

Comment author: Robert_Wiblin 28 January 2017 11:59:16PM *  20 points [-]

Thanks for your interest in our work.

As we say in the post, on this and most problem areas 80,000 Hours defers charity recommendations to experts on that particular cause (see: What resources did we draw on?). In this case our suggestion is based entirely on the suggestion of Chloe Cockburn, the Program Officer for Criminal Justice Reform at the Open Philanthropy Project, who works full time making grants on this particular problem area and knows much more than any of us about what is likely to work.

To questions like "does 80,000 Hours have view X that would make sense of this" or "is 80,000 Hours intending to do X" - the answer is that we don't really have independent views or goals on any of these things. We're just syndicating content from someone we perceive to be an authority (just as we do when we include GiveWell's recommended charities without having independently investigated them). I thought the article was very clear about this, but perhaps we needed to make it even more so in case people skipped down to a particular section without going through the preamble.

If you want to get these charities taken off of our article during next year's giving season, then you'd need to speak with Chloe. If she changes her suggestions - or another similar authority on this topic arises and offers a contrary view - then that would change what we include.

Regarding why we didn't recommend the Center for Criminal Justice Reform: again, that is entirely because it wasn't on the Open Philanthropy Project's list of suggestions for individual donors. Presumably that is because they felt their own grant - which you approve of - had filled their current funding needs.

All the best,

Rob

Comment author: Larks 29 January 2017 04:13:11PM 7 points [-]

If you want to get these charities taken off of our article during next year's giving season, then you'd need to speak with Chloe.

In general the EA movement has an admirable history of public cost-benefit analysis of different groups, which 80k has supported and should continue to do so. But in this instance 80k is instead deferring to the opinion of a single expert who has provided only the most cursory of justification. It's true that 80k isn't responsible for what Chloe says, but 80k is responsible for the choice to defer to her on the subject. And the responsibility is even greater if you present her work as representing the views of the effective altruism movement.

Comment author: Ben_Todd 30 January 2017 10:32:57PM 11 points [-]

Our post is just a summary of where trustworthy EAs recommend donating in the Dec giving season, which seems like a useful exercise that no-one else had done. It's clearly flagged that that's all it is - we list all the sources we drew on, and note that some recommendations had more support than others. Chloe is as an Open Phil grant officer who does full-time research into where to give and is in charge of tens of millions of dollars of funding per year, so clearly earns a place as a trustworthy EA, and probably has a better claim than many of the other people we included.

Comment author: Robert_Wiblin 29 January 2017 05:02:55PM *  5 points [-]

Our process here involves deferring to the project officers of the Open Philanthropy Project in their area of expertise (unless we can find an equivalent authority in the area who disagrees). OpenPhil seems to have a good record for making grants in line with EA values, and we trust the people involved in that institution, so this seems like a good process.

It's true, we could carve out an exception in this one case based on our own opinions. But I'd rather stick with a sound survey process that is i) generally reliable (and avoids errors based on our ignorance), and ii) scales well as the number of authorities and problem areas being reviewed increases.

The superior solution here is just for those who disagree with one of OpenPhil's ideas to speak with the relevant staff and convince them to change their minds. OpenPhil directs far more in grants than that blog post will move in donations, so making sure they get it right is much more valuable. If the arguments are convincing to Chloe or another relevant staff member, then I'll edit the blog post to reflect their latest thinking. I don't really have a dog in this fight.

Comment author: the_jaded_one 29 January 2017 06:22:06PM 2 points [-]

Comments from anyone involved in Open Philanthropy are welcome here.

Comment author: BenHoffman 05 April 2017 06:29:21PM 0 points [-]

On what basis was this expertise assessed?

Comment author: Gregory_Lewis 29 January 2017 08:12:34PM *  8 points [-]

I don't see the merit of upbraiding 80k for aggregation various sources of 'EA philanthropic advice' because one element of this relies on political views one may disagree with. Not including Cockburn's recommendations whilst including all the other OpenPhil staffers also implies political views others would find disagreeable. It's also fairly clear from the introduction the post (at least for non-animal charities) was canvassing all relevant recommendations rather than editorializing.

That said, it is perhaps unwise to translate 'advice from OpenPhil staffers' into 'EA recommendations'. OpenPhil is clear about how it licenses itself to try and 'pick hits' which may involve presuming or taking a bet on a particular hot button political topic (i.e. Immigration, criminal justice, abortion), being willing to take a particular empirical bet in the face of divided expertise, and so forth. For these reasons OpenPhil are not a 'Givewell for everything else', and their staffer's recommendations, although valuable for them to share and 80k to publicise, should carry the health warning that they are often conditional on quite large and non-resilient conjunctions of complicated convictions - which may not represent 'expert consensus' on these issues.

Comment author: Robert_Wiblin 29 January 2017 10:22:36PM 2 points [-]

Note that we say when describing this source at the beginning of the post that:

"[We refer to] Open Philanthropy Project’s suggestions for individual donors. ... Though note that “These are reasonably strong options in causes of interest, and shouldn’t be taken as outright recommendations.”"

We then consistently throughout the post refer to these as 'suggestions' only, rather than 'recommendations', as for the other sources.

Comment author: Daniel_Eth 30 January 2017 05:15:34AM 3 points [-]

I have no personal knowledge of these specific charities, nor strong opinions on the effectiveness of criminal justice reform. I do think, however, that there are good reasons to consider political issues in EA circles. The size of governments are huge, and the effects of their actions can be gigantic. Even a minor improvement in the function of the US government can have an impact far greater than what almost any other organization can accomplish.

In 2016, all of my donations were to Hillary's election campaign (my logic can mostly be found here: http://thinkingofutils.com/2016/11/value-one-vote/). The gwwc pledge (which I've taken) states giving should be "to the organisations that you think can do the most good with it." Had I given anywhere else instead, I would have been breaking the pledge since I thought her campaign was the most effective use of my money on the margin.

Comment author: the_jaded_one 01 February 2017 07:59:08AM *  -2 points [-]

Hillary outspent Trump by a factor of 2 and lost by a large margin, so it's something of a questionable decision.

EDIT: I think a more realistic model might go something like this; you can tweak the figures to shift a factor of 2-3 but not much more:

P(Hillary Win|total spend $300M) = 25% P(Hillary Win|total spend $3Bn) = 75%

Then the average value of d/dx P(Hillary Win|spend x) over that range is going to be 2700M/0.5 = $5.5Bn per unit of probability. Most likely the value of the derivative at the actual value isn't too far off the average.

This isn't too far from $1000/vote x 3 million votes = $3Bn.

So we could look at something like $5Bn/unit probability at the margin, or each $1 increasing the probability of Hillary winning by 1/5,000,000,000

You could probably do a very similar analysis for any political election at roughly this level of existing funding.

We can take a first approximation to the expected disutility of a very bad Trump presidency at $4Tn or one full years' GDP. This implies a very confident belief in an extremely negative outcome about Trump.

Is it competitive with global poverty? Well it seems like it is on a fairly similar level, since for $5000 you can save a life which is typically valued at something like $5-$25M, which is a similar "rate of return" to paying 5Bn for 4Tn via the Clinton campaign.

Is this competitive with MIRI or the other AI risk orgs? Probably not, but your beliefs about AI risk factor into this quite a lot.

Comment author: Linch 01 February 2017 08:38:13AM *  2 points [-]

I'm really confused by both your conclusion and how you arrived at the conclusion.

I. Your analysis suggest that if Clinton doubles her spending, her chances of winning will increase by less than 2% (!)

This seems unlikely.

II. "Hillary outspent Trump by a factor of 2 and lost by a large margin." I think this is exaggerating things. Clinton had a 2.1% higher popular vote. 538 suggests (http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/under-a-new-system-clinton-could-have-won-the-popular-vote-by-5-points-and-still-lost/) that Clinton would probably have won if she had a 3% popular vote advantage.

First of all, I dispute that losing by less than 1-in-100 of the electoral body is a "large margin." Secondly, I don't think it's very plausible that shifting order 1 million votes with $1 billion in additional funding has less than a 2% chance. ($1,000 per vote is well within the statistics I've seen on GOTV efforts, and actually seriously on the high end).

III. "I mean presumably even with 10x more money or $6bn, Hillary would still have stood a reasonable chance of losing, implying that the cost of a marginal 1% change in the outcome is something like $500,000,000 - $1,000,000,000 under a reasonable pre-election probability distribution."

I don't think this is the right way to model marginal probability, to put it lightly. :)

Comment author: the_jaded_one 01 February 2017 05:13:26PM 0 points [-]

I don't think this is the right way to model marginal probability, to put it lightly. :)

Well really you're trying to look at d/dx P(Hillary Win|spend x), and one way to do that is to model that as a linear function. More realistically it is something like a sigmoid.

For some numbers, see this

So if we assume: P(Hillary Win|total spend $300M) = 25% P(Hillary Win|total spend $3Bn) = 75%

Then the average value of d/dx P(Hillary Win|spend x) over that range is going to be 2700M/0.5 = $5.5Bn per unit of probability. Most likely the value of the derivative at the actual value isn't too far off the average.

This isn't too far from $1000/vote x 3 million votes = $3Bn.

Comment author: Linch 02 February 2017 01:04:37AM 1 point [-]

Thanks for the edit! :) I appreciate it.

I think your model has MUCH more plausible numbers after the edit, but on a more technical level, I still think a linear model that far out is not ideal here. We would expect diminishing marginal returns well before we hit an increase in spending by a factor of 10.

Probably much better to estimate based on "cost per vote" (like you did below), and then use something like Silver's estimates for marginal probability of a vote changing an election.

To be clear, I have nothing against linear models and use them regularly.

Comment author: the_jaded_one 01 February 2017 12:01:51PM 0 points [-]

Well if we go with $1000 per vote and we need to shift 3 million votes, that's $3bn. Now let's map $3bn to, say, a 25% increased probability of winning, under a reasonable pre-election distribution.

Then you can think of the election costing $12bn, for a benefit of 4tn, which is a factor of 400.

Comment author: Kerry_Vaughan 29 January 2017 12:50:09AM *  10 points [-]

It seems to me that your basic argument is something like this

1) Working on highly political topics isn't very effective 2) The charities recommended by 80K are highly political 3) Therefore, the charities recommended by 80K aren't very effective.

Maybe I've missed it, but the only support I see for 1) is this allusion to Hanson:

There are standard arguments, for example this by Robin Hanson from 10 years ago about why it is not smart or "effective" to get into these political tugs-of-war if one wants to make a genuine difference in the world.

But, the evidence from that quote and from Hanson's post, doesn't provide enough support for the premise. I don't think Hanson is saying that all cases of highly political topics are ineffective, and if he were, it seems clear that the general heuristic is nowhere near strong enough to support such a conclusion.

Instead, he's saying that we ought to be skeptical of highly political causes. Fair enough. One way to resolve our initial skepticism would be to have a trusted expert in the field recommend a highly political intervention. This is exactly what we have here.

It could be that 80K shouldn't recommend highly political charities even if they're effective. If so, that seems like a PR/communication problem which could be fixed by distancing themselves from the recommendations. They seem to have already done this, but could do it further by making it as clear as possible that they've outsourced this recommendation to OpenPhil.

The fact that they let Cosecha (and to a lesser extent The Alliance for Safety and Justice) through reduces my confidence in 80,000 hours and the EA movement as a whole. Who thought it would be a good idea to get EA into the culture war with these causes, and also thought that they were plausibly among the most effective things you can do with money? Are they taking effectiveness seriously? What does the political diversity of meetings at 80,000 hours look like? Were there no conservative altruists present in discussions surrounding The Alliance for Safety and Justice and Cosecha, and the promotion of them as "beneficial for everyone" and "effective"?

This is needlessly hyperbolic. Criminal Justice Reform is one among many causes 80K mentions as options in their research. They outsourced this recommendation to an expert in the field. Maybe they did a poor job of outsourcing this, but inferring some widespread problems seems entirely unjustified.

Instead of writing this like some kind of expose, it seems you could get the same results by emailing the 80K team, noting the political sensitivity of the topic, and suggesting that they provide some additional disclaimers about the nature of the recommendation.

So basically, Chloe likes organizing, and she likes Carlos.

I would expect significantly more detailed analysis. Why does Chloe like organizing? What type of organizing does she like? What evidence is there it work? What has Cosecha done in the past? How much money did they spend? How strong is the evidence of policy impact? How strong is the evidence for the desirability of the policies? What are the negative effects? What are the relevant counterfactuals?

@Larks: The recommendation is not intended to be a full-fledged write-up of the organization's effectiveness. It's a quick note of support from an expert in the field. We could debate whether 80K should trust this kind of quick recommendation, but asking that Chloe explores the issue in significantly more details seems unfair given the context.

So basically, Chloe likes organizing, and she likes Carlos.

This is pretty unfair. She provides quite a few lines of evidence in favor of this particular organizer. Liking him is not the root cause of recommending him here.

Disclosure: I work for CEA which houses 80K. I also know nearly everyone on the 80K team.

Comment author: jsteinhardt 29 January 2017 03:35:26AM *  10 points [-]

Instead of writing this like some kind of expose, it seems you could get the same results by emailing the 80K team, noting the political sensitivity of the topic, and suggesting that they provide some additional disclaimers about the nature of the recommendation.

I don't agree with the_jaded_one's conclusions or think his post is particularly well-thought-out, but I don't think raising the bar on criticism like this is very productive if you care about getting good criticism. (If you think the_jaded_one's criticism is bad criticism, then I think it makes sense to just argue for that rather than saying that they should have made it privately.)

My reasons are very similar to Benjamin Hoffman's reasons here.

Comment author: Kerry_Vaughan 29 January 2017 08:12:35PM 7 points [-]

I don't agree with thejadedone's conclusions or think his post is particularly well-thought-out, but I don't think raising the bar on criticism like this is very productive if you care about getting good criticism. (If you think thejadedone's criticism is bad criticism, then I think it makes sense to just argue for that rather than saying that they should have made it privately.)

I agree with this and wasn't trying to say something to the contrary. What I was trying to do is note that the post makes a relatively minor issue into an expose on EA and on 80K. I think this is unnecessary and unwarranted by the issue. What is was trying to do is note one way of handling the issue if your goal is merely to gain more information or see that a problem gets fixed.

I think public criticism is fine. I think a good, but not required, practice is to show the criticism to the organization ahead of publishing it so that they can correct factual inaccuracies. I think that would have improved the criticism substantially in this case.

Comment author: jsteinhardt 30 January 2017 06:08:29AM 1 point [-]

Thanks for clarifying; your position seems reasonable to me.

Comment author: Robert_Wiblin 29 January 2017 06:30:30AM 1 point [-]

The original post is partly based on a misconception about how we produced the list and our motivations. That's the kind of thing that could have been clarified if the author contacted us before publishing (or indeed, after publishing).

Comment author: the_jaded_one 29 January 2017 10:37:59AM 2 points [-]

based on a misconception about how we produced the list and our motivations.

I would disagree; to me it seems irrelevant whether 80,000 hours is "just syndicating content", or whether your organisation has a "direct view or goal".

It's on your website, as a recommendation. If it's a bad recommendation, it's your problem.

Comment author: Robert_Wiblin 29 January 2017 03:48:31PM 4 points [-]

Perhaps, but the article is peculiar because it's directed at 80,000 Hours rather than the ultimate source of the advice - when you just as easily could have addressed it to OpenPhil. It would be as though you had a problem with AMF and criticised 80,000 Hours over it (wondering what specifics could have caused us to recommend it), when you could just as easily direct it as GiveWell.

This leads you to speculation like "maybe [80,000 Hours] likes left-wing social justice causes". Had you reached out you wouldn't have had to speculate, and I could have told you right away that the list was designed to a follow a process that minimised the influence of my personal opinions. Had it been based on my personal views rather than a survey of experts and institutions, it probably wouldn't have included the Criminal Justice Reform category.

Anyway, I do think if you're writing a lengthy piece about a person or a group speaking with them to ask clarificatory questions is wise - it can save you from wasting time going down rabbit holes.

Comment author: the_jaded_one 29 January 2017 04:18:32PM 1 point [-]

when you just as easily could have addressed it to OpenPhil

This is true - and I would say that a lot of the same questions could be directed to OpenPhil.

process that minimised the influence of my personal opinions

But there should be some ultimate sanity checking on that process; if some process ends up recommending something that isn't really a good recommendation, then is it a good process?

it can save you from wasting time going down rabbit holes.

Yes, that's true, and I would consider it a pro which I consider to be outweighed by other factors.

Comment author: kbog  (EA Profile) 29 January 2017 03:50:02AM *  9 points [-]

@Larks: The recommendation is not intended to be a full-fledged write-up of the organization's effectiveness. It's a quick note of support from an expert in the field. We could debate whether 80K should trust this kind of quick recommendation, but asking that Chloe explores the issue in significantly more details seems unfair given the context.

I think it's potentially misleading to have chains of reference like this where from the outside it looks like "EA organizations recommend X" and when you get to the bottom of it there's just one person giving nothing more than a professional opinion (which could be politically biased, as well).

Comment author: Larks 29 January 2017 03:53:04PM 2 points [-]

Yeah. We should hold ourselves to higher epistemic standards than "we were able to find a single expert who believed this".

Comment author: Kerry_Vaughan 29 January 2017 08:15:08PM 1 point [-]

I think it's potentially misleading to have chains of reference like this where from the outside it looks like "EA organizations recommend X" and when you get to the bottom of it there's just one person giving nothing more than a professional opinion (which could be politically biased, as well).

Agree with this. It should be clear wherever a recommendation is based on the OpenPhil post that the post is the nature of the recommendation. It should also be clear how seriously we ought to take the post.

Comment author: Larks 29 January 2017 04:17:13PM 2 points [-]

One way to resolve our initial skepticism would be to have a trusted expert in the field recommend a highly political intervention.

This is a very low standard. It is easy to find any number of experts for many interventions. In order to have a reasonable chance of identifying the most cost-effective interventions, we need to demand higher standards than this. While we might disagree on what these standards might be, some possibilities might include:

  • Having done cost-benefit analysis
  • Providing references to RCTs
  • Providing a theoretical framework
  • Fairly considering opposing views

Yet none of these are present here.

Comment author: the_jaded_one 29 January 2017 01:36:47PM *  3 points [-]

One way to resolve our initial skepticism would be to have a trusted expert in the field

And in what field is Chloe Cockburn a "trusted expert"?

If we go by her twitter, we might say something like "she is an expert left-wing, highly political, anti-trump, pro-immigration activist"

Does that seem like a reasonable characterization of Chloe Cockburn's expertise to you?

Characterizing her as "Trusted" seems pretty dishonest in this context. Imagine someone who has problems with EA and Cosecha, for example because they were worried about political bias in EA. Now imagine that they got to know her opinions and leanings, e.g. on her twitter. They wouldn't "trust" her to make accurate calls about the effectiveness of donations to a left-wing, anti-Trump activist cause, because she is a left-wing anti-Trump activist. She is almost as biased as it is possible to be on this issue, the exact opposite of the kind of person whose opinion you should trust. Of course, she may have good arguments since those can come from biased people, but she is being touted as a "trusted expert", not a biased expert with strong arguments, so that is what I am responding to.

Comment author: jsteinhardt 29 January 2017 07:18:44PM 6 points [-]

OpenPhil made an extensive write-up on their decision to hire Chloe here: http://blog.givewell.org/2015/09/03/the-process-of-hiring-our-first-cause-specific-program-officer/. Presumably after reading that you have enough information to decide whether to trust her recommendations (taking into account also whatever degree of trust you have in OpenPhil). If you decide you don't trust it then that's fine, but I don't think that can function as an argument that the recommendation shouldn't have been made in the first place (many people such as myself do trust it and got substantial value out of the recommendation and of reading what Chloe has to say in general).

I feel your overall engagement here hasn't been very productive. You're mostly repeating the same point, and to the extent you make other points it feels like you're reaching for whatever counterarguments you can think of, without considering whether someone who disagreed with you would have an immediate response. The fact that you and Larks are responsible for 20 of the 32 comments on the thread is a further negative sign to me (you could probably condense the same or more information into fewer better-thought-out comments than you are currently making).

Comment author: the_jaded_one 29 January 2017 08:17:39PM 0 points [-]

I don't think that can function as an argument that the recommendation shouldn't have been made in the first place

I agree, and I didn't mention that document or my degree of trust in it.

I feel your overall engagement here hasn't been very productive.

I suppose it depends what you want to produce. If debates were predictably productive I presume people would just update without even having to have a debate.

it feels like you're reaching for whatever counterarguments you can think of, without considering whether someone who disagreed with you would have an immediate response

What counterarguments is one supposed to make, other than the ones one thinks of? I suppose the alternative is to not make a counterargument, or start a debate with all possible lines of play fully worked out and prepared? A high standard, to be sure. Sometimes one doesn't correctly anticipate the actual responses. Is there some tax on number of comments or responses? I mean this is valid to an extent, if someone is making really dumb arguments, but then again sometimes one has to ask the emperor why he isn't wearing any clothes.

Comment author: ozymandias 29 January 2017 02:23:11PM *  9 points [-]

I am uncertain why someone would choose to figure out what other people's area of expertise is from Twitter. Most people's Twitters contain their political opinions-- as you point out-- and do not contain their CV.

If you look at her LinkedIn, which seems to me to be a more appropriate source of information about her expertise, you'll discover that in addition to being the current program officer at OpenPhil specializing in criminal justice (which is presumably why she was asked), she was also a former advocacy and policy counsel for the ACLU specializing in ending mass incarceration and a lawyer who specialized in holding police accountable for wrongful convictions. This seems to me like a person who does, in fact, have informed opinions about ending mass incarceration.

Comment author: the_jaded_one 29 January 2017 03:03:51PM 2 points [-]

Informed opinions can still be biased, and we are being asked to "trust" her.

I am uncertain why someone would choose to figure out what other people's area of expertise is from Twitter.

Well I am worried about political bias in EA. Her political opinions are supremely relevant.

On a strictly legal question such as "In situation X, does law Y apply" I would definitely trust her more than I would trust myself. But that is not the question that is being asked, the question that is being asked is "Will the action of funding Cosecha reduce incarceration while maintaining public safety" with the followup question of "Or is this about increasing illegal immigration by making it harder to deport illegals, opposing Trump and generally supporting left-wing causes?"

I don't think that she can claim special knowledge or lack of bias in answering those questions. I think it's hard for anyone to.

Comment author: ozymandias 29 January 2017 04:00:24PM 3 points [-]

I am perhaps confused about what your claim is. Do you mean to say "Chloe Cockburn does not have expertise except in the facts of the law and being a left-wing anti-Trump activist"? Or "Chloe Cockburn has a good deal of expertise in fields relevant to the best possible way to reduce mass incarceration, but her opinion is sadly biased because she has liberal political opinions"?

Regarding her Twitter, I think Chloe Cockburn might have an informed opinion that reducing deportations of undocumented immigrants would reduce incarceration (through reducing the number of people in ICE detention) while maintaining public safety. That would cause her both to recommend Cosecha and to advocate on her Twitter feed for reducing deportations. Indeed, it is very common for people to do awareness-raising on Twitter for causes they believe are highly effective: if your argument were taken to its endpoint, we ought not trust GiveWell because its employees sometimes talk about how great malaria nets and deworming are on social media.

Probably, like all people, Chloe Cockburn supports the causes she supports for both rational and irrational reasons. That is something to take into account when deciding how seriously to take her advice. But that is also a fully general counterargument against ever taking advice from anyone.

Comment author: the_jaded_one 29 January 2017 04:35:12PM *  1 point [-]

reducing deportations of undocumented immigrants would reduce incarceration (through reducing the number of people in ICE detention)

That is true, but it is politicized inference. You could also reduce the number of people in ICE detention at any given time by deporting them much more quickly. Or you could reduce the number of undocumented immigrants by making it harder for them to get in in the first place, for example by building a large wall on the southern US border.

So I would characterize this as a politically biased opinion first and foremost. It's not even an opinion that requires being informed - it's obvious that you could reduce incarceration by releasing people from detention and just letting them have whatever they were trying to illegally take, you don't need a law degree to make this inference, but you do need a political slant to claim that it's a good idea.

And the totality of policies espoused by people such as Chloe Cockburn would be to flood the US with even more immigrants from poorer countries, not just to grant legal status to existing ones. This is entryism, and it is a highly political move that many people are deeply opposed to because they see it as part one of a plan to wipe them and their culture out. I don't think that's a good fit for an EA cause - even if you think it's a good idea, it makes sense to separate it from EA.

Comment author: ozymandias 29 January 2017 05:40:21PM 0 points [-]

Well, yes, anyone can come up with all sorts of policy ideas. If a person has policy expertise in a particular field, it allows them to sort out good policies from bad ones, because they are more aware of possible negative side effects and unintended consequences than an uninformed person is. I don't think the fact that a person endorses a particular policy means that they haven't thought about other policies.

Is your claim that Chloe Cockburn has failed to consider policy ideas associated with the right-wing, and thus has not done her due diligence to know that what she recommends is actually the best course? If so, what is your evidence for this claim?

Comment author: the_jaded_one 29 January 2017 06:18:23PM -1 points [-]

policy expertise in a particular field

What is policy expertise in the field of deciding that it is a good idea to encourage illegal immigration? I feel like we are (mis)using words here to make some extremely dodgy inferences. Chloe studied worked for the ACLU and a law firm, focusing on litigating police misconduct and aiming to reduce incarceration, and then Open Phil. This doesn't IMO qualify her to decide that increasing legal and illegal immigration is a good idea, and doesn't endow her with expertise on that question.

Is your claim that Chloe Cockburn has failed to consider policy ideas associated with the right-wing, and thus has not done her due diligence to know that what she recommends is actually the best course? If so, what is your evidence for this claim?

Well what is your evidence that she has done her due diligence to know that what she recommends is actually the best course?

Comment author: the_jaded_one 29 January 2017 04:38:12PM *  0 points [-]

if your argument were taken to its endpoint, we ought not trust GiveWell because its employees sometimes talk about how great malaria nets and deworming are on social media.

I don't trust them, to the extent that I endorse these causes, I trust their arguments (having read them) and data, and I trust the implicit critical process that has failed to come up with reasons why deworming isn't that good (to the extent that it hasn't).

Comment author: JoshYou 29 January 2017 04:27:43PM 3 points [-]

Support for a cause area isn't bias. That's just having an opinion. Your argument would imply that ACE is biased because they are run by animal activists, or that Givewell is biased because they advocate for reducing global poverty. These groups aren't necessarily an authority when you're deciding between cause areas, of course. But in deciding which organization is most effective within a given cause area, the "trusted experts" are almost always going to be advocates for that cause area.

More generally, you keep trying to frame your points as politically neutral "meta" considerations but it definitely feels like you have an axe to grind against the activist left which motivates a lot of what you're saying.

Comment author: the_jaded_one 29 January 2017 04:48:02PM -1 points [-]

More generally, you keep trying to frame your points as politically neutral "meta" considerations but it definitely feels like you have an axe to grind against the activist left which motivates a lot of what you're saying.

Well if EA is funding the activist left, justifying it by saying that a "trusted expert" (who just happens to be a leftist activist!) said it was a good idea, what exactly do you expect me to do?

And if people who disagree with leftist activism aren't allowed to bring up "meta" considerations when those considerations are inconvenient for leftist activism, then who is going to do it?

Comment author: RyanCarey 29 January 2017 07:32:10PM 1 point [-]

I'm all for criticising organizations without having your post vetted by them. But at some point, it is useful to reach out to them to let them know your criticism, if you want it to to be useful, and it seems like you've now well-passed this point.

Comment author: the_jaded_one 29 January 2017 07:57:56PM 0 points [-]

Can you elaborate?

Comment author: RyanCarey 30 January 2017 04:54:41AM *  1 point [-]

I agree that people should be allowed to give criticism without talking to the critiqued organizations first. It does usually improve informativeness and persuasiveness, but if we required every critique to be of extremely high journalistic quality then we would never get any criticism done, so we have a lower standard.

By this point, though, the thread has created enough discussion that at least some of OpenPhil are probably reading it. Still you're effectively talking about them as though they're not in the room, even though they are. The fix is to email them a link, and to try to give arguments that you think they would appreciate as input for how they could improve their activities.

Comment author: the_jaded_one 01 February 2017 05:41:25PM 0 points [-]

some of OpenPhil are probably reading it

...

The fix is to email them a link, and to try to give arguments that you think they would appreciate as input for how they could improve their activities.

Those arguments are in the post.

I am writing under a pseudonym so I don't have an easy way of emailing them without it going to their spam folder. I have sent an email pointing them to the post, though.

Comment author: the_jaded_one 29 January 2017 12:59:45PM 3 points [-]

it seems you could get the same results by emailing the 80K team

Given that the response given by 80,000 Hours here is

[we] don't really have independent views or goals on any of these things. We're just syndicating content

I am extremely glad that I didn't email them and try to keep this private. I believe that 80,000 Hours should take responsibility for recommendations that appear on its site, with the unavoidable implicit seal of approval that that confers.

Comment author: Larks 29 January 2017 04:20:09PM 2 points [-]

It could be that 80K shouldn't recommend highly political charities even if they're effective. If so, that seems like a PR/communication problem which could be fixed by distancing themselves from the recommendations. They seem to have already done this, but could do it further by making it as clear as possible that they've outsourced this recommendation to OpenPhil.

They could also not include them in a document titled "The effective altruism guide to donating this giving season", a title which implies a high level of endorsement from the movement.

Comment author: Kerry_Vaughan 29 January 2017 08:20:42PM 2 points [-]

They could also not include them in a document titled "The effective altruism guide to donating this giving season", a title which implies a high level of endorsement from the movement.

Did you read the intro to that post? They do the exact thing I recommend in the quote you provided.

People in the effective altruism community aim to use evidence and careful reasoning to work out how to best promote the wellbeing of all. To find the highest-impact charities this giving season, they’ve done tens of thousands of hours of research and published over 50,000 words of analysis this month. We read it all, and summed up the main recommendations by area below (not in priority order):

It is the EA guide because they synthesize the recommendations of people in EA. They say this from the outset, which is precisely what I think they should do.

Comment author: Larks 29 January 2017 04:02:52PM 1 point [-]

We could debate whether 80K should trust this kind of quick recommendation, but asking that Chloe explores the issue in significantly more details seems unfair given the context.

That is precisely what I am asking! This post is addressed at 80k, not Chloe. It's entirely reasonable for random experts to give brief opinions. It is not at all reasonable for 80k to present the brief views of one expert as the views of the movement.

If these groups had a long history of support among EAs, including a substantial amount of publicly available cost-effectiveness analysis, things would be different. Then we could point to Chloe's paragraph as an example of the reasons people support them. But as it is the paragraph seems to provide the entirety of the evidence 80k has, and in this light it is entirely insufficient.

Comment author: Kerry_Vaughan 29 January 2017 08:22:52PM *  1 point [-]

It is not at all reasonable for 80k to present the brief views of one expert as the views of the movement.

I think we agree: 80K should make the nature of the recommendations more clear. I believe they've already made an edit to the post that accomplishes this goal.

Presumably you now withdraw your objection?

Comment author: the_jaded_one 29 January 2017 01:10:59PM 0 points [-]

suggesting that they provide some additional disclaimers about the nature of the recommendation.

I most certainly wouldn't suggest that, I would suggest that they cease recommending both of these organisations, with the caveat that Cosecha is the worse of the two and first in line for being dropped.

Comment author: Kerry_Vaughan 29 January 2017 08:27:13PM 1 point [-]

I most certainly wouldn't suggest that, I would suggest that they cease recommending both of these organizations, with the caveat that Cosecha is the worse of the two and first in line for being dropped.

As far as I can tell, nothing in your post or subsequent comments warrant that conclusion. If the issue is making sensitive recommendations seem like the opinion of EA, then better caveating can solve that issue. If the issue is that the charities are in fact ineffective, then you haven't provided any direct evidence of this, only the indirect point that political charities are often ineffective.

I'd find it hard to believe that there is something problematic in transmitting a recommendation along with your epistemic status with regards to the recommendation in a post. It seems like 80K could do a better job of transmitting the epistemic status of the recommendation, but that's not an argument against recommendation the charities to begin with.

Comment author: the_jaded_one 01 February 2017 05:33:24PM 0 points [-]

If the issue is that the charities are in fact ineffective, then you haven't provided any direct evidence of this, only the indirect point that political charities are often ineffective.

Where is the direct evidence that Cosecha is highly effective?

Comment author: Larks 28 January 2017 10:17:09PM *  5 points [-]

Great post.

It's also notable how justification is provided for these groups. This is literally the entire justification for Cosecha:

Why I recommend it: I’m a big fan of organizing, but I admit that most organizers don’t have a precise explanation of how their methods work and what the impacts are. Carlos Saavedra, who leads Cosecha, stands out as an organizer who is devoted to testing and improving his methods, who has deeply studied the cycles of social movements in the United States and in other countries, and is honed in on strategies and tactics that show evidence of impact. He is a rigorous, skeptical thinker, taking leadership in a space of low predictability and high energy. Based on his approach, and the fact that I think Cosecha can do a lot of good to prevent mass deportations and incarceration, I think his work is a good fit for likely readers of this post.

So basically, Chloe likes organizing, and she likes Carlos.

I would expect significantly more detailed analysis. Why does Chloe like organizing? What type of organizing does she like? What evidence is there it work? What has Cosecha done in the past? How much money did they spend? How strong is the evidence of policy impact? How strong is the evidence for the desirability of the policies? What are the negative effects? What are the relevant counterfactuals?

In fact, this group seems like a very poor fit even for OPP's stated goal. If you click through to their issue writeup, it's all about reducing incarceration while not increasing crime. For example,

As a result, we seek to work on both crime and unnecessary incarceration, either in tandem or as separate interventions, with the goal of both building the political will to address unnecessary incarceration and discovering new tools to reduce crime, preferably those that do not involve long prison sentences.

A very reasonable goal, and one with bipartisan support. But somehow this ends up being twisted to support a highly partisan group who aim to use illegal means to support an unrelated goal!