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Andaro comments on Governmental CBA as an EA Career Step: A Shallow Investigation - Effective Altruism Forum

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Comment author: Andaro 08 July 2018 10:36:24PM 0 points [-]

I would beware the political backlash and retaliation costs from #2. What you are classifying as "ethical flaws" is actually about agenda.

In a representative democracy, government spending is supposed to be allocated according to the best interests of tax payers, voters, and citizens. Of course those are human beings living in the relatively present time with citizenship in the respective country. Trying to game the system so that it starts allocating those resources differently is not fixing an ethical flaw, it's a shift in agenda that does not match the principle of representation.

You may not care about that, but you should care about the political and social backlash EA will deservedly get if it undermines our best interests as voters, taxpayers and citizens of the countries you are trying to coopt.

Comment author: Cullen_OKeefe 08 July 2018 11:13:55PM 1 point [-]

I generally agree, which is why I explicitly acknowledge this in the post. But I also think you're mistaken about what's democratically feasible. The citizenry definitely gives a nonzero value to foreign lives (e.g., https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2017/05/04/americans-love-to-hate-foreign-aid-but-the-right-argument-makes-them-like-it-a-lot-more/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.208535615b42), but current CBA only weighs them quantitatively (which is as good as not at all). I really doubt that diminishing the discounting rate by a point or so would engender political backlash; most people presumably think we should care about the future too and in any case have no clue what the discount rate is.

Basically, the social welfare function of the US citizenry is actually probably more cosmopolitan than current CBA. CBA is pretty well isolated from political scrutiny (most people have no idea what it is and it generally has bipartisan support), so I don't think minor positive adjustments are a big risk.