MichaelPlant comments on Drug liberalization ballot initiative cost-effective at $460/DALY - Effective Altruism Forum

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Comment author: ea247 16 January 2018 06:38:00PM 2 points [-]

The reason why interventions like AR or x-risk are accepted by the EA movement (although not by all EAs) is that from a CEA perspective they do better than GiveWell top charities. The reason a lot of people still don't accept them as interventions though is because people discount based on evidence base differently, with some people taking non-evidence based CEAs more seriously than others. If drug policy does worse from a CEA perspective than GiveWell, AR and x-risk, and is worse from an evidence perspective than GiveWell charities, where is its advantage?

You could make a case that it's better from a metric perspective (ie preventing unhappiness through depression rather than DALYs which has issues with it, like over-valuing preventing death according to a lot of value systems), but deworming improves lives; it doesn't prevent death. Same with GiveDirectly.

For giving detailed feedback on the CEA, I unfortunately just don't have the energy to do the full thing, but if the final number still isn't enough to make me switch from GiveWell charities, it doesn't make sense to look more into the details. However, one thing that jumped out to me that others mentioned was the chance of the ballot coming through. I think looking up the historical rate of ballot initiatives being passed would be a good thing to look into.

Comment author: MichaelPlant 16 January 2018 11:14:25PM 2 points [-]

On your original comparison to GW charities, I wouldn't just take GW's analysis as the canonic truth on the matter. Their CEA is pretty complicated, but ultimately they value charities based on how well they either 1. save lives or 2. increase consumption.

What you think about the value of saving lives is a philosophical question. I've written about this elsewhere so won't repeat myself. What you think about the value of increase consumption (SCI and GD) is probably an empirical question. If you value happiness then increasing consumption is a really bad way to increase aggregate happiness because of adaption and comparison effects (I discuss this in my EAG talk).

When I think about GW charities, I'm am highly sceptical they do much good at all. I know, highly controversial....

I say this because it opens the space to look at other things, like mental health and pain, both of which drug policy reform help.

However, even if you take GW's calcs at face value (I'm not sure exactly what that is) I think it would still be possible to build an EV calc for drug policy reform that rivals them. In this post I suggest a campaign for rescheduling psychedelics could spend £250 billion and be competitive with AMF. Milan's calcs are really helpful because it's important to start filling in the details of this analysis. In many ways, Milan's is more complete than mine, which is quite simple.

Comment author: ea247 17 January 2018 12:53:00AM *  2 points [-]

Fair point, that deworming and cash transfers increase consumption instead of directly increase well being, or at least that's what GiveWell's main analysis rests on. I do recall that the GD study actually did look at SWB and on page 4 (bit.ly/2B97A1Y) it says that it increased a bunch of different happiness metrics as well (depression, stress, happiness and life satisfaction). However, if you only looked at that effect, GiveDirectly may not be that cost-effective. I haven't investigated it that much from that angle.

In terms of preventing infant mortality, it seems unlikely that losing a child wouldn't cause immense suffering to the parents, especially the mother. People often think that this wouldn't happen because people just "get used to" babies dying, but the odds that a child will die is actually quite low nowadays, even in the developing world. In India, where I have the most experience, it's measured in deaths per 1,000 live births, not 100, because it's that's rare. Additionally, because I don't think death is nearly as bad as DALYs would have it, I looked a lot into parental mourning before choosing SMS reminders. I don't have anything formal I wrote up I can point to (though I might at some point), but my research found that most parents, after the loss of a child, are depressed for around a year, with some tail ends of people who never appear to recover.

If it's the metrics issue that's leading to drug policy reform, I would recommend looking into preventing iron deficiency (through supplements or fortification) as an alternative. It's more evidence based and iron deficiency causes massive unhappiness. Anecdotally I've had friends who transformed from sad grumpy monsters into happy productive members of society after realizing they were deficient. Additionally there's evidence it increases income, increases IQ if taken during pregnancy, and decreases mortality in certain circumstances, so it's pretty robust no matter the metrics you care about.

Lastly, I'll admit that I haven't read all of your posts / critiques of AMF's effectiveness, so I'll have to go and do that :)