Left-wing critique of effective altruism

I very much enjoyed the new LRB piece by Amia Srinivasan.  Here is a good “standing on one foot” statement of what effective altruism recommends:

The results of all this number-crunching are sometimes satisfyingly counterintuitive. Deworming has better educational outcomes among Kenyan schoolchildren than increasing the numbers of textbooks or teachers. If you want to improve animal welfare, it’s better to stop eating eggs than beef, since caged layer hens live worse lives than farmed cows, and because eating eggs consumes more animals than eating beef: the average American consumes 0.8 layer hens but only 0.1 beef cows per year. Buying Fairtrade goods can be worse than buying regular goods, since the extra cost goes mostly to middlemen rather than farmers, and when it doesn’t, it benefits farmers in relatively rich countries: because Fairtrade standards are hard to meet, most Fairtrade coffee production comes from Mexico and Costa Rica rather than, say, Ethiopia, where the marginal pound would go much further. The green value of buying locally grown food is overblown, too, since transport accounts for only 10 per cent of the carbon footprint of food, while 80 per cent of it is generated in production; tomatoes grown in the UK can have five times the carbon footprint of tomatoes shipped from Spain because of the energy required to hothouse them. If you’re really committed to minimising your carbon footprint, MacAskill recommends donating to the carbon offsetting charity Cool Earth; he estimates that the average American could offset all his carbon emissions by donating $105 a year. There isn’t much point in unplugging your electricals, either: leaving your mobile phone charger plugged in for a whole year contributes less to your carbon footprint than one hot bath.

And here is part of the critique:

MacAskill is evidently comfortable with ways of talking that are familiar from the exponents of global capitalism: the will to quantify, the essential comparability of all goods and all evils, the obsession with productivity and efficiency, the conviction that there is a happy convergence between self-interest and morality, the seeming confidence that there is no crisis whose solution is beyond the ingenuity of man. He repeatedly talks about philanthropy as a deal too good to pass up: ‘It’s like a 99 per cent off sale, or buy one, get 99 free. It might be the most amazing deal you’ll see in your life.’ There is a seemingly unanswerable logic, at once natural and magical, simple and totalising, to both global capitalism and effective altruism. That he speaks in the proprietary language of the illness – global inequality – whose symptoms he proposes to mop up is an irony on which he doesn’t comment. Perhaps he senses that his potential followers – privileged, ambitious millennials – don’t want to hear about the iniquities of the system that has shaped their worldview. Or perhaps he thinks there’s no irony here at all: capitalism, as always, produces the means of its own correction, and effective altruism is just the latest instance.

Not my view, but well written as a piece and definitely recommended.  Here is comment from Scott Alexander.

Comments

OMG, first Cowen recommends Wray, and then this commie! What has happened to MR?!

Communist? Really? He's hardly even a socialist. It's just people trying to do good.

Aren't right wingers often saying that good work should be left to charity, not government?

Who's "he"? it's a she, Amia.

The linked article is by Srinivasan, reviewing a book by MacAskill.

Harding is complaining that Srinivasan is a communist (she is). Nathan thought, incorrectly, that Harding was referring to MacAskill. I'm not sure he even read the linked article. She explicitly calls for world revolution and condemns the book and its message.

Why so threatened by those who disagree with you? If your position is justifiable then you shouldn't mind being exposed to disagreeing viewpoints.

I'm not complaining about exposure, I'm complaining about endorsement.

"not my view"

Tell it to the progs, cheers.

Ok: That was a stupid comment, for 2+ reasons.
1) ...I'm a progressive who reads this site, thereby refuting your claim as to progressives yada yada yada.

2) Consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.

2+) Left as an exercise to the reader.

A FOOLISH consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds. There, fixed that for ya.

Witness and weep, knaves! Comrade Cowen is continuing to make short work of you reactionaries!

I think you're missing the point. Yes, Srinivasan is a commie. She's still worth reading this time.

Her two major critiques of MacAskill are that 1) charitable giving to help the sick and poor is money that won't go towards world revolution, which is a major drawback if you're a revolutionary trying to live in a posh town like London; and 2) MacAskill's book is dangerous because as his "qalys" come to encompass more of the human condition and his models become more sophisticated in capturing the total social costs and benefits of different decisions, that he'll have reinvented Adam Smith and uncovered the essentially moral nature of capitalism.

In other words, Srinivasan's horror is that naive do-gooders like MacAskill might be inching towards uncovering the fact that everything that she believes in is a self-serving lie. She's trying to indict it by association: "See all that math? It looks like free markets, and acts like free markets, and isn't even committed to overthrowing them!" And yet, even on her own terms, she's coming off as a privileged apparatchik, gleefully starving the kulaks in the name of the Cause.

After all, why help people, when you can help The People(tm)? The former involves real work and sacrifice, associating with dirty and disheveled people and enduring appalling conditions. The latter lets you live high on the hog, get into the best parties, and associate with the best people-- all the while smugly confident that it's all somehow eventually for the best for everyone.

the conviction that there is a happy convergence between self-interest and morality

Love makes the world go 'round.

Srinivasam alleged misery--inequality--is uncurable. (What more likely really bothers him--his own limits of control and power--is better left uncured.)

MacAskill does not seek utopia, but only to get by, to do the best one can. Thus the enmity of the Utopians.

The Armenian's a chick!

Actually, Amia Srinivasan is a name I would associate with an Indian woman.

On second thought, you're right. Is that name Tamil?

Not only that, but global inequality has collapsed due to the spread of capitalism/markets!

Actually, she asserts that it's curable by world revolution. In fact, she goes on to assert that charitable giving to individuals is immoral because the money should be going to direct action to overthrow capitalism.

Well, in fairness, she doesn't quite say that. She just says you could say that, and probably should say that, and that the system is fundamentally evil in its foundations, and that anything that reinforces it is evil as a result, even giving charity.

right, Love makes the world go ’round.

"If you’re faced with the choice between spending a few hours consoling a bereaved friend, or earning some money to donate to an effective charity, the utilitarian calculus will tell you to do the latter."

That is a very naive view of the utilitarian calculus. Someone else may earn the money; who else can console your friend, who can get them back to the level of happiness that productivity requires? Your investment in consolation is worth whatever extra good your friend generates as a result of your friendship.

"the will to quantify"

A good bit of leftism seems to be driven by the resentful innumeracy of otherwise intelligent people.

I don't know so much about the US here, but in Canada quite a lot of non-right people are intent on trying to convince the government to engage in evidence-based decision making instead of generally turning to ideology as the criteria for rules and decisions.

Glad they finally came around too.

Indeed. The department of aboriginal affairs says it needs more data to maintain its ability to f**k over another generation of kids.

Another vestige of the left's yearning for effective five year plans. If only we had completed and more data we could get our central control of the economy right!

You seem pretty upset about something, but I have a hard time making sense of what you're saying.

What is aboriginal affairs doing wrong? (sure, the list is long, so I think you could be specific)

If you're worried about data ... aren't you concerned about ever-increasing spy powers of secret police over its own citizens?

Can you show examples where left-wing ideology was overturned in this manner by non-right people?

An example of left wing ideological resigning itself to a right wing preference in the face of evidence relates to the basic principle of marker production is better than government production.

The left was VERY anti-market, anti-corporate for a very long time (vestiges of this still exist), but despite faults that might be more heavily weighted by "the left", I think it is almost undisputed these days that market production delivers better prosperity than public production, except (arguably) in some special cases like education and health care. Naturally, the left remains suspicious of markets, and is more likely to press for government interventions to fix market failures, whereas I would argue that "the right" are now more likely to be more ideological about it, supposing that unfeterred markets are magically leading somewhere better and that any intervention WHATSOEVER will always lead to worse results.

I think the critical piece of overwhelming evidence was the 20-30% immediate drop in GDP in post-communist countries after 1991. That's how inefficient state capitalism was. The moment it was exposed to a competitive market, GDP collapsed.

Plus, the potemkin economic stats extolling their fabulous successes from socialist/Marxist nations have as much of a relationship with truth and evidence as Obama shouting over and over that you can keep your doctor, your $2,500 cheaper and now even better health plan, even while he knew he was lying.

Socialists/Marxists can never, ever, no way, no how, be honest about their plans or the consequences of their policies or leftism/statism/collectivism would finally be recognized for what it really is - a delusional fantasy of an impossible utopia caused by a pathological/suicidal mental disorder.

You may see it as vestigal, but to me it seems to be taking over the Left. "I think it is almost undisputed these days that market production delivers better prosperity than public production"... It seems to be very widely disputed. The Occupy movements in the United States and its sister movements in Europe are disputing that very point. The number two presidential candidate in the United States is an open Socialist who calls for nationalization of the means of production-- Britain's labor party is laboring to catch up with the left-ward lurch. Left-wing writers in the USA like Ezra Klein has been writing for years claiming that the "evidence" proves that marginal analysis and the demand curve are fictions. In Greece, you have large majorities embracing Socialism, following in the footsteps of Venezuela-- both regimes are still widely defended in the rest of Europe and North America. It's not terribly long ago that there was blood in the streets from anti-globalization protesters... but if you saw their demonstrations first-hand you'd notice that they weren't critiquing tariff policy, they were attacking capitalism itself.

I'm trying to find an example of government-run production in the West that its left-wing faction has supported privatizing. The only one I can think of is Obama's space program-- which his own advisers admit was a pretext for cutting it-- and which as a result is prospering.

I think you give away the game when you say, "whereas I would argue that “the right” are now more likely to be more ideological about it, supposing that unfeterred(sic) markets are magically leading somewhere better and that any intervention WHATSOEVER will always lead to worse results". You're throwing up a straw man and saying that your views are "evidence-based" and your opponents' aren't. Everyone does that.

...except (arguably) in some special cases like education and health care.

I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

…except (arguably) in some special cases like education and health care.

And, coming soon, food. Everyone has a right to eat, right? And housing. People need a home. You can't count on the market to produce basic necessities. I'd define basic necessities for you, but that definition will be subject to change. Go look up the case of Venezuela and you'll see how this game is played.

What I love is how you're claiming that nearly all liberals accept that the free market is superior and socialism is the recipe for mass poverty and dictatorship... responding to an article in an elite literary journal where a respected left-wing professor openly calls for overthrow of the capitalist system. Because a moderate leftist isn't left-wing enough for her tastes. Never mind the two big exceptions you carve out to your free-market principles (and exactly why should these two industries work differently than any other, anyway?)-- you're willfully blinding yourself to big swathes of your own movement and the very author whose article you are responding to.

Could you point to a few groups that oppose "evidence-based decisions-making"? Everybody believes their views are evidence-based, and more than a few will deny having an ideology at all despite often being dogmatic about one.

In a world where controlled experiments in public policy aren't possible, priorities and goals vary, and evidence is usually mixed, you need some kind of organizing principles to make sense of it all, a theoretical framework that can help you interpret the evidence and decide what is right and what is wrong. That's called an ideology.

Ideology isn't a substitute for facts, and facts aren't a substitute for ideology. You might say that your ideology corresponds more closely to the way the world really works, but then again everybody believes that about their own ideologies. What the proponents of "evidence-based decision-making" are really saying is that people who disagree with them are ignorant fanatics, and that they themselves are disinterested technicians. They're just deceiving people and perhaps even themselves about what their beliefs really are.

Leftists are people who cannot understand Science but have "emotional intelligence" instead.

Anyone who makes generalizations like that can hardly be said to have a good understanding of science.

Is it the right of the left that is more anti-science? Consider:
- creation (religious right) versus evolution (science) in schools
- Anti-AGW (Republican favourite which puts greater weight on 1% of scientists than the other 99%) versus AGW (weighs 99% of scientists as greater than 1%)
- war on drugs and criminal treatment of drugs (right wing favourite despite repeated demonstration that it's not effective) versus treatment of addicts with the health system (generally promoted by the centre and left)
- safe injection sites as money savings (the left looks to the science here)
- abstinence only programs (a favourite of the Christian right) versus broad based sex education (the left relies on actual "scientific" studies here

Please take your ideological blinders off. If anything, I would (and just did) argue that the opposite is true. What leads you to think that the so-called "left" is less based in science that the right?

Nathan W September 26, 2015 at 8:09 am

Is it the right of the left that is more anti-science? Consider: – creation (religious right) versus evolution (science) in schools

The Left is no friend of science. It is important to them to think they support science, but they don't. Evolution is a good example. They go so far as to invent the fiction of "Social Darwinism" so they can continue to ignore the implications of Darwin's work. You only have to look at IQ. There is obviously a genetic component to intelligence. It is not and cannot be equal between individuals. There is no reason to think it is equal between genetically isolated historic human populations either. But the Left denies the very genetic basis of intelligence.

As for Global Warming, the Left has embraced warming because it helps their agenda. But the science is still out, 99% of scientists do not support it, and the case is not looking good for the warmists. The fact they have to rely on bullying, suppression of opposition and faking the evidence s
strongly suggests they know it too.

It is laughable to claim that Leftist positions on drug laws are based on science. Or that there is a meaningful difference between the parties. The people who campaigned for tough laws on crack were mainly Black Democratic politicians from places like New York.

Abstinence works by the way. No other form of sexual education does.

But you would know this if you were not so politically partisan.

Whew. Glad you cleared that up.

You heard the man! Black people are subhuman, the greenhouse effect is fiction, and condoms are porous!

To believe otherwise is to be non-scientific!

God I hate leftists.

Genetic components of "intelligence"
- come back to us in 100 years when ANYONE knows what they are. Skin melanin (the thing that determines skin colour) is related to natural vitamin D absorption, not intelligence. We are white because in northern climes we would have had "too much" cancer if we were black and unable to absorb more vitamin D. (Hence, black people in northern climes should take vitamin D supplements).

AGW as "leftist agenda".
- how on earth would AGW support a leftist agenda? I don't understand this point, even though I've heard is 100 times.

Drug laws - I speak more for the Canadian example here. Repeated studies over the course of generations fail to find that marijuana is harmful, yet right wingers promote jail time for its use, while left wing parties promote decriminalization or outright legalization. Where's the science to support the notion that a) it's bad for you or b) that criminalization is justified? If you want to put people in jail, we should rely on some sort of scientific analysis to suggest that there is some social benefit to this. Instead, Bible thumpers seem to lead the way on this one (but ... didn't God create weed too? And never say anything against it?)

abstinence only - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abstinence-only_sex_education. Focus on citations 1 and 5. No duh. Abstinence works. BUT, teenagers don't practice abstinence when you teach it to them. many of them want to have sex. Teenagers who are taught about condoms have lower pregnancy rates and STD transmission.

Politically partisan? Here's the point. I'm interested in scientific answers, not partisan politics. In each of the issues that I mentioned, so-called "right wing" supports policies with no scientific justification, while the so-called "left wing" supports policies which DO have scientific justification.

Nathan, marijuana is harmful (see C0nc0rdance's videos on this) in numerous ways. I, too, think it should be kept illegal, just like I think cigarettes should be made illegal- the question is which enforcement mechanisms are effective.

The most effective policy of preventing pre-marital sex is the Biblical one -stoning.

AGW scaremongering certainly doesn't promote a rightist agenda.

Genetic components of “intelligence”

Oh, and stop flying until the graviton is discovered.

Nathan W September 26, 2015 at 11:18 am

Genetic components of “intelligence” – come back to us in 100 years when ANYONE knows what they are.

Electric currents run the wrong way to the way that people assume. They made a guess at the time and they got it wrong. Yet, oddly enough, being completely wrong about the direction current flowed and having little idea about what caused it, did not stop the early scientists playing with electricity.

"We are white because in northern climes we would have had “too much” cancer if we were black and unable to absorb more vitamin D. (Hence, black people in northern climes should take vitamin D supplements)."

Well no. We may have had too little Vitamin D and so suffered from rickets. In sunnier climes we would have got skin cancer without the melanin. But so what? Race is not solely about melanin.

AGW as “leftist agenda”. – how on earth would AGW support a leftist agenda? I don’t understand this point, even though I’ve heard is 100 times.

Then you should have asked. Or at least thought about it. Like a good scientist would. Global Warming could go either way. It is a theory that could support a variety of agendas. But in fact it is only used to push the Left's Soft Stalinism - more central control, more regulation, more public ownership, more government spending. The Left is uninterested in it if it means a market solution. There is never any support for nuclear energy despite the case being overwhelming. There is never any support for pollution trading. There is never any support for licensed hunting even though it has been highly effective. Never any support for real property rights even though that does too. At least not from the Left.

Repeated studies over the course of generations fail to find that marijuana is harmful, yet right wingers promote jail time for its use, while left wing parties promote decriminalization or outright legalization.

No they have not. Harm has been found. Do right wingers? That is not how these drug laws started is it? The Harrison Act was passed by a Democrat senator from New York and signed by a Democrat President. Prohibition was part of the Progressive movement. The Left pushed it, the Right opposed. Feebly. The Left in Canada too pushed for drug prohibition.

Now the Left may have back flipped and the Right continued their usual habit to support whatever exists. But you cannot make a clear Left-Right distinction. Milton Friedman wanted total liberalization. In fact the big push for legalization since the 1980s has come from the libertarian Right. And many on the Left continue to demand drugs remain illegal. More graft that way.

If you want to put people in jail, we should rely on some sort of scientific analysis to suggest that there is some social benefit to this.

Why? The Left supports jailing people all the time without any scientific evidence it makes the world a better place. They want to jail people for doubting Global Warming now.

BUT, teenagers don’t practice abstinence when you teach it to them.

Tell that to the Saudis. Notice that, as usual, the Left changes the goal posts to get the result it wants. It looks at unwanted pregnancies. Which is fine but is not really the measure we want. What these studies show is that parts of the US which are liberal abort a lot of teenage mother's babies. Parts that are not, don't. Even in the US abstinence works.

Politically partisan? Here’s the point. I’m interested in scientific answers, not partisan politics.

You need to think so.

In each of the issues that I mentioned, so-called “right wing” supports policies with no scientific justification, while the so-called “left wing” supports policies which DO have scientific justification.

That is not true for anything you claimed. You can't even get the history right. It is just part of your need to see yourself as modern, rational and progressive. But your views aren't. They are just tribal fetishes.

The Left is no friend of science. It is important to them to think they support science, but they don’t. Evolution is a good example. They go so far as to invent the fiction of “Social Darwinism” so they can continue to ignore the implications of Darwin’s work. You only have to look at IQ. There is obviously a genetic component to intelligence. It is not and cannot be equal between individuals. There is no reason to think it is equal between genetically isolated historic human populations either. But the Left denies the very genetic basis of intelligence.

Identical? No.

But is it significant? Or do we even know what way it runs?

There are HUGE components to intelligence that depend on culture, education, nutrition, wealth, etc. And these all vary by these cultural groups pushing IQ in the directions you attribute to genes.

It's like attributing someone's hospitalization to a heart attack when you can see a gaping bullet would.

As for Global Warming, the Left has embraced warming because it helps their agenda. But the science is still out, 99% of scientists do not support it, and the case is not looking good for the warmists. The fact they have to rely on bullying, suppression of opposition and faking the evidence strongly suggests they know it too.

"99% of scientists do not support it"

Oooh but 4/5 dentists do! And 100 out of 90 CEOs. And 93.6% of blind left handed jugglers named Frank!!

Aaron Luchko September 26, 2015 at 6:00 pm

And 93.6% of blind left handed jugglers named Frank!!

Well that seals the deal for me. You should always support anything Frank says.

Identical? No.

So you are a Sailorite HBDer?

But is it significant? Or do we even know what way it runs? There are HUGE components to intelligence that depend on culture, education, nutrition, wealth, etc. And these all vary by these cultural groups pushing IQ in the directions you attribute to genes.

Is what significant? The gap? Certainly. Which way the difference runs? Well yes obviously we all know that too. I agree that a lot depends on culture. I think that if something can be attributed to culture, it should be. If we want to talk about why Black cultures in every country in the world produce low IQ results, that would be an interesting conversation. But when it comes to individuals, culture tends to even out more. People of the same culture share much of that culture but still have different outcomes - and genes play a role. How much of a role is a question. Stephen Jay Gould, not a fan of Steve I would guess, said perhaps 40% I think from memory. That is significant.

It’s like attributing someone’s hospitalization to a heart attack when you can see a gaping bullet would.

What is the gaping bullet wound in this case? The fact that semi-starved Vietnamese immigrants do so much better on IQ tests than obese African Americans? Just compare average sizes. One thing we should be able to agree on - African Americans do not suffer from problems with their nutrition.

People of the same culture share much of that culture but still have different outcomes – and genes play a role. How much of a role is a question.

You're conflating two very different concepts.

No one denies intelligence varies because of genes. The question is whether the differences between race are due to genes. That's a very different question.

An obvious example, gender varies because of genes, but it doesn't vary across races, or to the extent it does (female infanticide) it does so for non-genetic reasons.

Is what significant? The gap? Certainly. Which way the difference runs? Well yes obviously we all know that too.

The gap due to genetics? Well no we don't which way it runs.

Could it be 10 points in favour of "black" people over "white"? Probably not, that would probably overwhelm other sources of variance. Could it be 10 points in favour of "white" people over "black"? Sure. Though it could also be 1 or 0.1 point in favour of "blacks", if it's a small magnitude we don't know the direction.

If we want to talk about why Black cultures in every country in the world produce low IQ results, that would be an interesting conversation.

"Black" cultures are either in Africa, which has some major legacy problems. Or South America and former slave populations. You can't untangle the culture and socioeconomic factors.

Note I'm putting those in quotes because both those groups contain a ridiculous amount of internal diversity. We just group them together because they spent a long time together at the same latitude and ended up with the same skin colour. Are Arabs grouped with whites or blacks? West Africans are absolutely dominant sprinters, East Africans distance runners, that likely does have a big genetic basis. But you're going to claim they somehow have the same IQ? By comparing white vs black you're essentially forcing yourself to concentrate on culture instead of genes.

Stephen Jay Gould, not a fan of Steve I would guess, said perhaps 40% I think from memory. That is significant.

I looked around and I couldn't find this, in fact it sounded like he argued for the opposite.

What is the gaping bullet wound in this case? The fact that semi-starved Vietnamese immigrants do so much better on IQ tests than obese African Americans? Just compare average sizes. One thing we should be able to agree on – African Americans do not suffer from problems with their nutrition.

African Americans have to deal with negative stereotypes about African American IQ, they're immersed in a culture that isn't very supportive and go through some horrible school systems. That's going to have a huge effect on their IQ scores.

Aaron Luchko September 26, 2015 at 7:38 pm

You’re conflating two very different concepts. No one denies intelligence varies because of genes. The question is whether the differences between race are due to genes. That’s a very different question.

No I am not. There has been a strong trend to deny that genes have any role in human beings at all. The Blank Slate. So much so that when Ekman and Friesen presented their work on emotions and facial expressions, they were physically assaulted. The HBD crowd have been winning this argument for a long time.

But as I said, there are differences between individuals. There is no reason to think there isn't between historic populations as well. I am not saying there are, but it is entirely plausible. So right from the start I have made a distinction between the two.

The gap due to genetics? Well no we don’t which way it runs.

Sure. And I have a bridge to sell you. Whichever way you want to slice it, Occam's Razor.

“Black” cultures are either in Africa, which has some major legacy problems. Or South America and former slave populations. You can’t untangle the culture and socioeconomic factors.

There is an Afro-Swiss population. An Afro-Swedish one too. Want to bet on their educational outcomes? If you want to find other factors, you can, indeed, find them. But that doesn't mean you can't untangle them unless you don't want to untangle them.

Note I’m putting those in quotes because both those groups contain a ridiculous amount of internal diversity. We just group them together because they spent a long time together at the same latitude and ended up with the same skin colour.

The internal diversity is irrelevant. What matters is that there are significant parts of their DNA which indicate with reliability approaching 100% where they came from historically. They spent a long time at the same latitude in isolated populations and so ended up genetically distinct from other populations.

But you’re going to claim they somehow have the same IQ?

No idea. I would do the test first and see.

By comparing white vs black you’re essentially forcing yourself to concentrate on culture instead of genes.

Are you? East Africans, like West Africans, tend to speak languages from the same Bantu family. I am not so sure they are that genetically isolated.

I looked around and I couldn’t find this, in fact it sounded like he argued for the opposite.

I may be misremembering the Mismeasure of Man, but I remember him accepting a genetic component but rejecting biological determinism. As with people with short sight.

African Americans have to deal with negative stereotypes about African American IQ, they’re immersed in a culture that isn’t very supportive and go through some horrible school systems. That’s going to have a huge effect on their IQ scores.

Sure. But not poor diet. We always have this problem with cause and effect. African IQs are low because Africa is poor. Or is Africa poor because African IQs are low? Maybe it is a complex system with no clear answers. One thing we can be sure of - if you take a school system and replace all the students with students of African-origin, leaving pretty much everything else the same, results plummet. So that Clayton County, just outside Atlanta, Georgia, went from being 90% White in 1980 to being about 80% non-White in the mid-1990s. In 1980 it had a solid school system. In 2008 the school district was de-accredited. The first such school district since 1967. The buildings were the same. The libraries and laboratories had not been removed to the suburbs. The teachers were, largely, the same. Something changed.

African Americans have to deal with negative stereotypes about African American IQ,

-The line of causation runs in precisely the opposite direction you're thinking of.

they’re immersed in a culture that isn’t very supportive

-Is any Black-majority country immersed in a culture that is very supportive? Why do you think that is?

and go through some horrible school systems

-Again, the line of causation runs in precisely the opposite direction you're thinking of.

That’s going to have a huge effect on their IQ scores.

-Maybe. Uruguay's PISA scores are way below potential. But why wouldn't it have a huge positive effect?

"-The line of causation runs in precisely the opposite direction you’re thinking of."

People react to expectations, people keep telling you you're stupid and you'll tend to prove them right.

"-Is any Black-majority country immersed in a culture that is very supportive? Why do you think that is?"

I gave my answer already, slavery and screwed up Africa.

We're talking about entire societies. Change takes a very long time to occur.

" and go through some horrible school systems

-Again, the line of causation runs in precisely the opposite direction you’re thinking of."

You know the easiest way to improve achievement of black students? School integration.

People react to expectations, people keep telling you you’re stupid and you’ll tend to prove them right.

Yep, that's why white minorities perform so horribly, all those negative stereotypes about the Irish and Jews and Poles and etc.

Congratulations on having a mental model that has negative predictive value.

Aaron, you clearly are not familiar with the relevant literature. I get that you probably don't want to be convinced but if you were familiar, you would be. Your conclusion that African populations have (relatively) low IQ because everyone tells them they have low IQ is fairly laughable, since in the U.S. it's absolutely anathema to even suggest that African populations have low IQ and in Africa who is going around telling them that? Besides the fact that there is no evidence whatsoever that stereotypes are a self-fulfilling prophesy as you propose. (Please don't bring up stereotype threat as that is a short term effect and most likely not actually a real phenomenon).

Only a leftist could conclude that someone with a lower than average IQ is sub-human

Aaron, you clearly are not familiar with the relevant literature. I get that you probably don’t want to be convinced but if you were familiar, you would be. Your conclusion that African populations have (relatively) low IQ because everyone tells them they have low IQ is fairly laughable, since in the U.S. it’s absolutely anathema to even suggest that African populations have low IQ and in Africa who is going around telling them that?

Well a lot of people here for one. But they're not just reacting to the genetic argument. In the US there's not an expectation that they'll go to University and maybe grad school, in a lot of communities it's counted as a great victory if they can simply make it to college. To a certain point you succeed to the level you're expected. I'm not saying that's the only factor, there's huge systemic racism, but it is a factor.

Besides the fact that there is no evidence whatsoever that stereotypes are a self-fulfilling prophesy as you propose. (Please don’t bring up stereotype threat as that is a short term effect and most likely not actually a real phenomenon).

I can't find the link to the study but this is a real thing.

There was a study done on elementary students where at the start of the year they were given an aptitude test that basically labeled them as a good student or bad.

At the end of the year the good students had done better than the bad students.

Of course the test was fake and the good/bad label was completely random. But you can certainly see the application to a black student who realizes they're subject to low expectations.

Only a leftist could conclude that someone with a lower than average IQ is sub-human

All I can say is WTF?!?

Harding - if you are the real Harding and not the troll who takes his name ... re marijuana ... I think you are quite capable of recognizing that good science is based on, well, good science. I don't get my "good science" from anti-drug propaganda on youtube. If you have any decent links to "good science", please link.

Careless - no duh, there are both environmental and genetic determinants of "intelligence". No one is arguing to stop thinking. But drawing conclusions about genetic determinants of intelligence when ... wait ... we don't know what they are, is not "science". Besides which, that isn't a left/right thing. But white supremacists love to speak "science" any time there is a shred of anything that tells them that their high melanin production somehow makes them naturally superior.

So much for subtlety - AGW - "in fact it is only used to push .... more central control, more regulation, more public ownership, more government spending. The Left is uninterested in it if it means a market solution." Fact - on the left, the debate is whether cap and trade or a carbon tax is better. The right prefers to pretend that AGW is bunk.

So much for subtlety - marijuana - I'm not talking about which party supported what in the 1960s. I'm talking about today.

So much for subtlety - prison sentences - when does the left support prison sentences without evidence? And then you make up an absolutely absurd claim, that the left wants to imprison anti-AGW people. When you have to resort to outright lies to push your case, probably your argument isn't not on very strong grounds.

Aaron Luchko - "the left" does not deny a genetic basis for intelligence. That would be stupid, however, you might find some individuals who believe this. Rather, "the left" tends to prioritize social factors which contribute to unequal opportunity. But at least you're not dishonest about this , and admit that "culture, education, nutrition, wealth, etc." matter. However, the way that you frame your position suggests to me that you are in the minority of IQ-ists who genuinely want to know, perhaps even for the greater social good, as compared to those who cling on to any piece of evidence that tells them they are oh so fantastic and superior. A priori, if YOU were the scientist doing the research, I would expect to find conclusions which are NOT driven by racist motives.

I would prioritize your statement that "Change takes a very long time to occur." In present day America, we are ONLY 8 generations or so out of slavery. Slavery COMPLETELY disrupted the social fabric of families, culture, etc. It is entirely unsurprising to observe that social dysfunction continues ONLY 8 generations after the end of slavery and ONLY 2 generations after the end of segregation.

"You know the easiest way to improve achievement of black students? School integration."

-You mean busing? Massive [citation needed]. Moving to opportunity didn't lead to short-term test score increases; most of the lifetime income gains were probably due to signaling.

"there’s huge systemic racism, but it is a factor."

-Remember kids! The more invisible the racism is, the more systemic it becomes. In fact, there's literally no way to falsify the systemic racism, that's how systemic it is!

"I gave my answer already, slavery and screwed up Africa."

-You know, China was once pretty screwed up, too. And Japanese Peruvians were brought there as indentured servants, little better than slaves. Despite this, they tower among the Latino-Mestizo-Native American population.

"We’re talking about entire societies. Change takes a very long time to occur."

-Indeed. On a genetic timescale. Blonde hair was unknown in Europe before the unification of Egypt.

And Nathan, that is not anti-drug propaganda. It's based on overviews of good science, dammit. Did you even bother to watch or (as I suspect) just spout off without thinking or watching or doing anything?

And I haven't seen any trolls who have taken my name in the past few days. I look closely.

"But drawing conclusions about genetic determinants of intelligence when … wait … we don’t know what they are, is not “science”."

-But drawing conclusions about the nature of gravity when...wait... we've never seen a gravitron is not "science".

"It is entirely unsurprising to observe that social dysfunction continues ONLY 8 generations after the end of slavery and ONLY 2 generations after the end of segregation."

-Oh, bullshit, Nathan:
http://therightstuff.biz/2015/08/23/slavery-of-blacks-was-pretty-tame/
You don't think non-Muslim Blacks who were never slaves don't have those exact same social problems? Ever heard of South Africa? Botswana?

"So much for subtlety – prison sentences – when does the left support prison sentences without evidence?"

-Ever heard of Martin O' Malley? Coates singles him out in his latest article on his race, which I read (and liked). See my review at my blog.

"Anti-AGW (Republican favourite which puts greater weight on 1% of scientists than the other 99%) "

You use a consensus argument to support being scientific? HAHA! Damn round earthers.

Flat earthers were ignorant.

Climate science is very complicated. But there is a smoking gun for AGW. C02 and CH4 are greenhouse gases, and we are emitting them. Climate science will get better and better. Flat out denying AGW is not very useful, but the role of skeptics in identifying shortcomings of existing models IS useful.

It is disingenuous to say skeptics so not believe in GW altogether. Even some AGW. ( I do.)

I think where the skeptics (me) have issue where the A component overpowers natural variation, and is catastrophic. The alarmists have cherry picked data, and have falsified results so often that they are not believable. If Michael Mann told me the sun rose in the east I would need to re-access my priors. Too bad it's gotten this way.

This is a subject worth studying, but those who claim to be are not scientists.

There is some warming; I don’t think it’s disputed by the skeptics. Here are some concerns:
1- What is the climate sensitivity (i.e. the change in temperature for a doubling of CO2) ? Each IPCC report has revised this downward. What is the proper weighing of feedbacks in the models ( clouds for example). Every model to date overshoots actual temperatures
2- The climate always varies. What is the natural component of the current warming ? The climate was warmer in the past in the absence of CO2 ( Medieval warm period). CO2 was much higher in the Ordovician period (4600 ppm) but the Earth experienced glacial conditions.
3- What is the cause of the current temperature pause ( flat lining of temperatures from 1998 to the present) . Note that during this period 1/3 of all total man made emissions since 1880 were emitted with hardly or no temperature change AGW proponents have tried various tricks to erase this pause but it is inconveniently present. Why don’t the models predict this ?
4- What about the benefits of CO2. After all It is a boon to plant life and has very significantly increased agricultural output and forestation. Why isn’t this part of the accounting of the pros and cons of climate change. Here is a defense of Carbon dioxide by a Princeton Physics professor :
http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424127887323528404578452483656067190
5-What should we do about it? Since the influence of CO2 on temperature is logarithmic , hasn’t most of the change already occurred? How much will the remedies cost ( reduction of GDP) and what benefits are we buying for the cost we are asked to bear?
6-Currently we seem to be on target for < 1.6 C per century and 3mm of ocean rise a year ( 30 cm per century). How bad is this really ? Would not the cold parts of the earth benefit from global warming.? Why is 30 cm of sea rise something we can’t deal with ?
Here is a piece from Matt Ridley on "green scares"
http://www.wsj.com/articles/the-green-scare-problem-1439506952

Please take your ideological blinders off.

Wrote Nathan freaking W lol

Yes, I know, you disagree with every single word I say.

Who is being ideological?

It's the right-wingers like Reinhart and Rogoff that can't do Excel spreadsheets, remember?

Anecdote not data. Levitt on abortion and crime couldn't do spreadsheets, either. So what?

how much do you love your parents on a scale of 1-10? What are the 3 best reasons to live?

Thus the love for higher minimum wage, rent control and "Fair Trade" products.

During my first global travels, one day as I travelled the NE of India, I realized that if I wanted to do some good in the world, I'd have to make a lot of money first. That's when I decided to go to university.

sounds like warren buffett, he is still being the most effective altruist he can be, no ego involved no sireee

We should probably teach children this more explicitly.

I have a small suggestion for the state of the union address: invite the top 10 taxpayers and highlight their contributions.

Ever notice how its always demands to pay their fair share and such, without much recognition.

China gives a plaque to companies that pay more than a million in taxes (1 million RMB)

I think a SOTU invite to taxpayers would be better than the usual people who get invited.

I'd also name bridges, ships, etc. after taxpayers and not politicians.

I tend to think that exceedingly wealthy benefit enormously from the system. After it, they used it (gamed it?? sometimes?) to get rich. I think we will disagree somewhat on this perspective.

I do, however, find your idea of naming bridges, ships, etc. after taxpayers and not politicians to be very intriguing.

Another utopia that runs counter to basic human nature. In the real world (not the world of the philosophers) people care first about their immediate family, their kin, their friends their group, their community, their tribe, their country. They will weigh these hierarchically not equally. I am less affected emotionally by 700 people dying in Mecca than by the death of one friend, a neighbor or a co-worker. Yes, it’s 700 people, I register it mentally but I am not emotionally as involved. Peter Singer may wish it differently but it is so. Not all outcomes have equal value . We help other people not through some cold mathematical evaluation of pluses and minuses but because we respond emotionally . We may value cows more than chickens, We may care much more about orphans close to home than orphans in Africa. We certainly will not deny our child needed medical care and instead “optimize the good” by using the money to save two unknown children far away.
The effective Altruist Man, would be a soulless automaton mired in an endless calculus of “ optimizing” the good . Should I drink this soda (it contains CO2), should I capture the methane from my farts or merely offset it ?,should I walk 3 hrs to work or drive 10 mins ?, should I spend this one hour of free time playing with my son ( or should I work an extra hour and donate the money to some people in Africa I don’t know ) and so on…, Actually to satisfy the eco-extremists deepest wishes , shouldn’t I reduce my carbon footprint to zero and kill myself for the most benefit to the environment? Absurd.

There is a distinction between altruism and selfish behavior. Of course, people selfishly help their own family before helping others. In those cases, one follows a maximize-my-own-utility rule.

Effective altruism deals with those cases when one *wants or intends* to help others. In those cases, one can follow a maximize-global-utility rule rather than a do-what-feels-good or do-what-maximizes-social-desirability rule. Effective altruists are not saying that people should be more altruistic; they are helping those that intend to be altruistic move beyond mere intentions.

>Effective altruists are not saying that people should be more altruistic

They say that all the time. Have you never heard of Giving What We Can?

Sorta, but not very preachy about it. It's more like saying "hey, you CAN be altruist, and here's a good way to do it", but not lecturing you for doing nothing. I don't see any indication that they try to shame people who do nothing.

That's the opposite of my experience. What I have seen is that if you express a normal amount of selfishness to an EA person they call you a sociopath.

As Adam Smith put is, a man will be more concerned about his own loss of a little finger than the lives of one hundred million of his brethren.

Certainly, people are more concerned with what is close to them.

But, in a globalized world, everything becomes close. I think it is entirely natural to expect that people will become more concerned with the situation of those who are physically far from them. A sort of expansion of human sympathy (a la Adam Smith) beyond the levels when we lived in clans and were entirely ignorant of others.

As I like to put it: "Love your neighbour. In a globalized world, we are all neighbours." However, I will still calculate the value of close friends and family as being higher than strangers. This is perfectly natural, and I do not feel the least bit bad about it.

some people kill themselves or their immediate family members. Although it is true that we care most about what is close to us, we should be careful that we know what the word "care" means.

I wonder where Stephen Hawking would show up on the QALY scale. Surely all the interventions spent to keep him alive and communicating would have been better spent deworming children.

that's a good way to put the problem with this. the starting point is arbitrary. better to intend good things for the things that are at hand.

You give several examples of "is" and then conclude an "ought". Don't you know you're not supposed to do that?

Also, nice job recognizing that an absurd extremization of other people's position is absurd. Who'd have thought!

So, the main critique of effective altruism is that it reaches conclusions that are counterintuitive to, and sometimes contradict the policy preferences and lifestyle choices of, left wingers and arrives at those conclusions using sound, rational reasoning --- just like global capitalism.

Yeah... That's what I got out if it.

Self refuting?

Allow me to restate your argument, using only words you use in the order you used them, without extraneous clauses:

The main critique of effective altruism is that it reaches conclusions counterintuitive to left wingers and arrives at those conclusions using sound, rational reasoning.

To restate it in my own words:

A critique was made using sound, rational reasoning.

Why did you say anything at all? I'm asking merely from a critical perspective.

You suck at reading comprehension

To be clear, because [see above], the criticisms aren't being made using sound, rational reasoning. EA is being made using sound, rational reasoning

I found myself disagreeing strongly with parts of the article. But towards the end I had to admit that the absolute utilitarianism is limited and most likely wrong. What is your view Tyler? What is a good middlegroud?

Give more than half a shit. Not purely selfless, but not purely selfish. Find your own middleground, and allow yourself to be influenced by both hidden hand enthusiasts and more explicitly charitable types, perhaps depending on your personal strengths, etc.

imo.

If you want to improve animal welfare, it’s better to stop eating eggs than beef, since caged layer hens live worse lives than farmed cows, and because eating eggs consumes more animals than eating beef: the average American consumes 0.8 layer hens but only 0.1 beef cows per year.

In perhaps the worst advertising campaign ever, the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals launched a campaign to persuade Americans to eat less chicken and more Blue Whale. Yes, I am serious. On the simple grounds that a single adult male Blue Whale would replace something like a million battery chickens. Plus the Whale gets to live a free and happy life unconstrained by cages, right up to the point it gets harpooned.

Virtually all traces of this campaign have been scrubbed from the internet but enough persistent googling can find evidence of it. But it is nice to see the same logic lives on.

It is exceedingly sensible logic if you care about sentient suffering.

Unfortunately, the blue whale was vastly over-fished in earlier years, and now is a protected species.

And believe that the domestic chicken is a sentient being

The blue whale wishes it were a tasty meat eaten by all humanity.

In the genetic race to keep your genes alive, the blue whale has done poorly, while the chicken has done extremely well.

Yes, killing chickens is not fun for the chicken, but we keep making more chickens.

Often this is forgotten by PETA types: the chicken gains something by being our food, at the species level, though.

Another game to play is imagine a world where everyone wakes up a vegetarian.

The ranchers of the world would kill their cattle immediately.

Thus, everyone espousing "helping animals" would lead to mass killings of animals.

Ten billion existences of suffering is not good for chickens. Better not to live.

PETA loves any press, and the fact that you remember their outlandish campaign is a PR win for them. Every week some journalist, blogger, etc. thinks they are taking down PETA by writing critically about them, but that just keeps PETA (and animal issues) in the news like they want. They talk about this openly - they have no media budget, they find it effective for their goals, and that's why they do this.

And I agree with Nathan W, their logic is sensible if you are about sentient suffering.

So you're saying they're just idiots?

"the illness – global inequality – whose symptoms he proposes to mop up"

May I advocate a counter-capitalist solution to world inequality? I think that the more robust sorts of socialists, those devoted to protecting the interests of the industrial proletariat in the capitalist world, would agree that if you exterminate everyone in the poor countries inequality would undergo a dramatic reduction and their clients would benefit from reduced potential competition. Personally I prefer MacAskill's cast of mind - treating symptoms often being better than just euthanising the patient. Even better, though, would be to find strategies that don't lead to the generation of ever larger populations in the - what do we call it now? - undeveloped world.

Comparing comments at Fox and Huffington post, I think there is a lot more support for nuking the third world on the right side of the spectrum than among "robust socialists".

I've never met a socialist who agrees with your line of thinking, even though it is obviously true that the statistical indicator of inequality will be lower of you kill all the poor people.

What's with this line of thinking that goes like "let's imagine the worst possible way to address the situation, attribute it to socialists or liberals, and then imply that socialists or liberals are exceedingly dumb". There seems to be a lot of this going on these days.

Nathan W September 26, 2015 at 8:57 am

Comparing comments at Fox and Huffington post, I think there is a lot more support for nuking the third world on the right side of the spectrum than among “robust socialists”.

Which is odd because virtually all the mass murder in the Third World has been done by the Left. There may be people at Fox news who talk about it, but when it comes down to it, it is people like those at the Puff Host who actually do it.

I’ve never met a socialist who agrees with your line of thinking, even though it is obviously true that the statistical indicator of inequality will be lower of you kill all the poor people.

You do not get out enough. Sweden practiced a milder form of this until the mid-1970s. They sterilized the feckless poor - especially Gypsies. That took a little longer to reduce inequality but reduce it it did. That was a common Social Democratic policy that the Swedes practiced well within the life time of many, if not most, people here.

All the mass murder in the third world has been done by dictators who picked up whatever ideology would appeal to impoverished people. The best general with the most populist agenda wins. This has NOTHING to do with simplistic left/right divisions in the modern, highly advanced Western world.

Bernie Sanders is not the American Khmer Rouge. Nor is he a Stalin, a dictator who took over from the Czar (another dictator). Nor is he a Mao, a dictator who took over from other dictators. Also, they practiced state capitalism, not communism.

I stand corrected about the Swedes. I have met some Swedes who are quite disturbed about the Nazi influence (eugenics) continuing well after WWII. Yes, I know about history. However, that's all before I was even born, and I am talking about the modern day. I've still never met a socialist who actually thinks like that. Ever since Lysenko (Russian) was proven to be a totally bunk scientist, socialists have basically given up on the project to breed a "social man".

Nathan W September 26, 2015 at 11:33 am

All the mass murder in the third world has been done by dictators who picked up whatever ideology would appeal to impoverished people.

There is nothing whatsoever that suggests Communism has or had any appeal to Third World peasants at all. That was why it was imposed so violently and the Communists refused real elections. Why they lied their way into power by pretending to be anything but Communists. But Communists they were. Educated, for the most part, in Paris. It has everything to do with Left-Right distinctions. That is why most educated Leftists in the West cheered on the butchery while it was taking place.

Bernie Sanders is not the American Khmer Rouge. Nor is he a Stalin, a dictator who took over from the Czar (another dictator). Nor is he a Mao, a dictator who took over from other dictators. Also, they practiced state capitalism, not communism.

Sanders is not. But he supported the Khmer Rouge at the time. Like most Trots. Stalin did not take over from the Tsar. Mao did not take over from other dictators. To call Stalin and Mao dictators is to miss the point. But I expect that. They are on your side politically after all.

I stand corrected about the Swedes. I have met some Swedes who are quite disturbed about the Nazi influence (eugenics) continuing well after WWII.

It is not a Nazi influence. It pre-dates them. The Social Democrats influenced the Nazis. With most of such programs coming from the Left. Switzerland too. But also the American North-West - they passed some of the first laws in America even if Virginia is more famous.

Ever since Lysenko (Russian) was proven to be a totally bunk scientist, socialists have basically given up on the project to breed a “social man”.

And yet they support abortion. They supported the Pill which was an openly eugenic project to produce something the lower races and classes would use. That is why it was tested in Puerto Rico.

Bernie Sanders is not the American Pol Pot....yet.

His little 28 kinds of deodorants comment suggests he has an active state planner inside him that he manages to repress most of the time, but it could come out if he were to gain dictatorial powers.

Most of the mass murder in Indonesia and Pakistan was not done by the Left.

Abortion is a left-wing implementation of this proposal.

Only by accident, if so.

Abortion is only ever defended as the right of a women over her body and her own reproductive freedom.

BS. Aside from rape, a woman already had control of her reproductive system.

There are some things you cannot say openly in America. If you believe the Left, anyway, somethings need to be said using code words. The Left is big on dog whistles. But not when it comes to their own.

So yes, abortion was originally defended as a way to stop poor and "colored" people having too many children. Now it is used to "help" teenagers who don't want to become mothers. Well, when the Right talks about teenage mothers, we all know they are using code, right? So is the Left. That is why Planned Parenthood has opened shop in so many Black neighborhoods.

But even something like "Every child should be a wanted child". OK. Who do you think that refers to? Do you think that the people who say that think Michael Oher was a wanted child?

Born Michael Jerome Williams, Jr., in Memphis, Tennessee, he was one of 12 children born to Denise Oher. His mother was an alcoholic and crack cocaine addict, and his father, Michael Jerome Williams, was frequently in prison. Due to his upbringing, he received little attention and discipline during his childhood.[1] He repeated both first and second grades, and attended eleven different schools during his first nine years as a student.[1] He was placed in foster care at age seven, and alternated between living in various foster homes and periods of homelessness.

Or do you think they mean Leigh Anne Tuohy's two other children are unwanted?

We all know what they mean. The Left sees racial dog whistles everywhere because they use them all the time.

"So yes, abortion was originally defended as a way to stop poor and “colored” people having too many children."

-Which would have been a very, very, very good thing were it successfully implemented. But I think the Left wants more voters for it in the future, not less. So it makes no sense for the Left today to discourage births among poor Black and Mestizo unwed mothers. SMFS, I do think you're projecting here.

You seem to think that those on the left want to reduce inequality for... statistical?... reasons. As if reducing inequality was an end to itself.

You may consider that people might want to reduce inequality out of a sense of justice or compassion, thereby reducing your statement to Swiftian drivel.

As if reducing inequality was an end to itself.

Correct.

Are you comfortable with calling this part of a value system, and not ideology per se?

Sorry, how would reducing inequality per se be related in any way to justice or compassion?

...Oh, I see what you did there. This is a parody account, isn't it? You're trying to say something that a capitalist would say in a way so stupid no person would agree with you...

Disregard my earlier comment. Well played.

"Or perhaps he thinks there’s no irony here at all: capitalism, as always, produces the means of its own correction, and effective altruism is just the latest instance." Who's being ironic: Srinivasan or MacAskill? Capitalism does produce the means of its own correction - absent intervention by the misguided but well-intended. The question isn't whether capitalism self-corrects, the question is whether the self-correction is so painful in the short-run that it's better to intervene and avoid the self-correction even though that means the correction never happens. Of course, there is an alternative: intervene not to avoid the self-correction but to correct whatever needs correction. That's as unlikely as snow in Florida in July: those who benefit from whatever needs correction don't see a need for correction.

I tend to think of this as being at least socialist enough to forever forestall the "inevitable" Marxist revolution, but not too much more socialist than that.

Add to that bare minimum (of never giving the lowest classes quite enough reason to band together in bloody revolution), "sensible" interventions which demonstrably (or at least almost certainly) increase aggregate welfare by fixing market failures, such as in education or health where markets undersupply relative to the optimum by not accounting for externalities in knowledge and health.

Seems like markets way oversupply those things now

The effective altruism scene isn't all that different than government aid programs in that there's a disconnect between the concrete and the abstract. Programs meant to assist farmers in general, an abstraction, end up providing a subsidy to actual farmers, some of whom are in the saloon every night until closing time, spend their limited funds on tattoos and motorcycles, sleep until noon and beat their wives.

The same is true of the targets of effective altruism. Why should a donor be confident that his hard-earned funds (and they will be hard-earned, won't they?) are going to some worthy recipient instead of financing the apartment of the mistress of a charity functionary or buying the beer for a west African wife beater. Furthermore, why does being poor, relative to other parts of the planet, necessarily justify charity on its own?

"(it costs £32,400 to train one seeing-eye dog and its owner)"
So that arbitrary and perhaps fictional figure should be accepted as the amount required to mitigate the QAYLS of a blind person? Maybe the truly effective altruist should train the dogs himself, for free.

Hence, a preference for organizations which track outcomes. There is no such thing as "perfect targeting", but with better data systems, for example facilitated by work of the World Bank and UN to support domestic statistical capacity in many countries, it is easier with every year that passes to quantify the impacts of an intervention.

The difference is that you might do so for actual altruistic reasons, where governments underlying motivations aren't actually altruistic: they want to win votes, and they want to build relations with foreign nations.

You're surpassing your usual quotient of doofusicity today. The World Bank and UN? We've already seen what their capacity is for effective altruism. The World Bank elites don't even buy their ties at African bazaars and the UN functionaries on the ground are more involved in child prostitution than assembling statistics on the daily caloric intake of the average goat herd.

"they want to win votes"

If the votes were real ones and actually counted by disinterested parties or there actually were elections at all. The business of government isn't winning votes at all, it's staying in power. Getting votes may or may not be a part of that but governments make sure that if it is, they get them.

UN and World Bank. I'm not talking about their broader operations. Your critiques are somewhat legitimate, although I doubt that you can find a tie worth buying at an African bizzar, and I think it is disgusting to paint the entire UN as peddling child prostitution for the fact of some isolated incident.

BUT, to the point. I'm talking very specifically about a sub-component of their activities, which is very explicitly to improve statistical monitoring capacity, for the explicit purpose of better targeting. I work as a translator, and a decent share of the work I do is in this precise domain. For these purposes, there is a major initiative in the UN for publicly open data for these purposes which is getting of the ground (http://data.un.org/) and the World Bank opened up its treasure trove in 2009 (http://data.worldbank.org/).

As for votes ... are you suggesting that there is widespread elections fraud somewhere?

"are going to some worthy recipient instead of financing the apartment of the mistress of a charity functionary or buying the beer for a west African wife beater."

Again, this only makes sense with respect to a counterfactual. I can only imagine that there are lots of ways to spend money in such a way that it unintentionally winds up funding the upkeep of someone's mistress or financing someone's alcoholism. What we can do is measure the average treatment effect of certain programs and compare the marginal impact of an additional contribution going to the program compared to other uses for the money.

So, just start with the assumption that capitalism is the root of all evil, and all the sudden EA doesn't look so hot? Is that what I'm getting? Rank twaddle.

EA sorts have their issues, and I've been happy to point them out to them, but this criticism isn't even a criticism. "EA looks and feels like capitalism, but isn't, but even so, it's too much like capitalism, which is so bad that anything that even reminds us of capitalism must be horrible". From an ostensibly educated person. Her freshman logic professor should be dragged into the street and flogged.

Yup. Why's Cowen endorsing this?

I gather that effective altruism is one of those common sense things that is rapidly becoming a movement, with rules, with insiders, with outsiders. At that point it becomes silly. Of course it is natural and human to think through the consequences of ones' actions, and to try to grasp opportunity costs. Does that mean there is one calculation and answer for eggs and beef? Of course not. Like everything else in life it is a personal search for better and best paths.

Perhaps I should mention the obverse?

It is silly to react to said movement with "oh no, it is wrong to think about the consequences of our actions." That's just a reflexive "tell" about who you are.

Who can you help most effectively? Someone you'll never meet or someone you see every day?

Deworming replications show a zero effect on learning outcomes.

Time to hit the books again bro

Thank you Tyler that was delicious.

Hmm I wonder if Tyler is the So Much for Sublety troll? I mean this guy is a freakin cliche....

Nah. SMFS seems to be strongly infected with untrue tradcon tropes; I agree. He needs to read more Left material.

I predict Effective Altruism will have a schism in less than ten years, like atheism did, 2011-2015. Probably fewer.

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