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Comment author: Azathoth123 17 October 2014 03:35:54AM 1 point [-]

The idea is that if I donate $100 to the Democratic Party, and you donate $200 to the Republican party (or to their nominees for President, say), the net marginal effect on the election is very similar to if you'd donated $100 and I've donated nothing; $100 from each of us is being canceled out

That the ratios of the marginal benefits of a dollar for the two parties are 1:1 is not at all obvious.

Comment author: HonoreDB 17 October 2014 04:15:16AM 0 points [-]

Sure, but it's really hard to anticipate which side will benefit more, so in expected value they're equal. I'm sure some people will think their side will be more effective in how it spends money...I'll try to persuade them to take the outside view.

Comment author: gwillen 14 October 2014 02:43:42AM 7 points [-]

You should probably chat with Sai, of Make Your Laws. (http://s.ai/) He's spent a bunch of time recently petitioning the FEC to answer questions about various crazy ways his organization would like to funnel donations. (Specific technical questions, like: "If someone gives us a donation whose recipient is conditional on a condition that won't be known until 6 months from now, [question about how some regulation applies].") I bet he can at least help you find answers.

Comment author: HonoreDB 14 October 2014 10:41:55PM 1 point [-]

Thanks, I'll look him up.

Comment author: Prismattic 14 October 2014 02:45:35AM 8 points [-]

I think you might be underestimating the amount of money in politics that comes from large organized contributors who give money to both parties for purposes of making the system in general beholden to them rather than favoring one ideology over the other.

Comment author: HonoreDB 14 October 2014 10:39:42PM 1 point [-]

I think those contributors will probably not be our main demographic, since they have an interest in the system as it is and don't want to risk disrupting it. In theory, though, donating to both parties can be modeled as a costly signal (the implied threat is that if you displease me, the next election I'll only donate to your opponent), and there's no reason you can't do that through our site.

Comment author: Salemicus 14 October 2014 04:28:51PM 3 points [-]

The idea is that if I donate $100 to the Democratic Party, and you donate $200 to the Republican party (or to their nominees for President, say), the net marginal effect on the election is very similar to if you'd donated $100 and I've donated nothing; $100 from each of us is being canceled out.

It seems to be implicit in your model that funding for political parties is a negative-sum arms race. This is starkly at odds with much of political thinking, which sees funding for political parties as a positive-sum game. This is expressed by public subsidies for political parties, in such terms as public funding/matching funding/tax deductibility of political donations, depending on where you reside.

Political parties turn funding into votes by getting their message out to voters, so the more funding political parties have, the better informed an electorate we will have. Moreover, to the extent that funding getting your message out becomes less binding of a constraint, then other constraints (such as the persuasiveness of that message) will become more binding - which seems like a good thing.

I guess it just goes to show that one person's public good is another person's public nuisance. In my own view, the most damaging negative-sum arms race is academia. Perhaps you will inspire me to set up my own 501c(3) to allow matching donations to universities to be diverted to political parties.

Comment author: HonoreDB 14 October 2014 10:36:04PM 0 points [-]

It seems to be implicit in your model that funding for political parties is a negative-sum arms race.

What army1987 said. The specific assumption is that on the margin, the effect of more funding to both sides is either very small or negative.

In my own view, the most damaging negative-sum arms race is academia.

This is definitely an extendable idea. It gets a lot more complicated when there are >2 sides, unfortunately. Even if they agreed it was negative-sum, someone donating $100 to Columbia University would generally not be equally happy to take $100 away from Harvard. I don't know how to fix that.

Comment author: ChristianKl 13 October 2014 10:04:53PM 3 points [-]

I recommend crossposting the request for information to http://www.effective-altruism.com/ . Maybe someone knows someone who can help. It's worthwhile to spread the request that many people see it.

Comment author: HonoreDB 13 October 2014 11:07:39PM 0 points [-]

Thanks!

Comment author: ChristianKl 13 October 2014 09:14:43PM 5 points [-]

It probably includes finding a person with expertise on the subject matter. That means it's easier if you reduce the level of abstractness and specify the issue at least a bit.

Comment author: HonoreDB 13 October 2014 09:43:08PM 29 points [-]

I'm happy to specify completely, actually, I just figured a general question would lead to answers that are more useful to the community.

In my case, I'm helping to set up an organization to divert money away from major party U.S. campaign funds and to efficient charities. The idea is that if I donate $100 to the Democratic Party, and you donate $200 to the Republican party (or to their nominees for President, say), the net marginal effect on the election is very similar to if you'd donated $100 and I've donated nothing; $100 from each of us is being canceled out. So we're going to make a site where people can donate to either of two opposing causes, we'll hold it in escrow for a little, and then at a preset time the money that would be canceling out goes to a GiveWell charity instead. So if we get $5000 in donations for the Democrats and $2000 for Republicans, the Democrats get $3000 and the neutral charity gets $4000. From an individual donor's point of view, each dollar you donate will either become a dollar for your side, or take away a dollar from the opposing side.

This obviously steps into a lot of election law, so that's probably the expertise I'll be looking for. We also need to figure out what type of organization(s) we need to be: it seems ideal to incorporate as a 501c(3) just so that people can make tax-deductible donations to us (whether donations made through us that end up going to charity can be tax-deductible is another issue). I think the spirit of the regulations should permit that, but I am not a lawyer and I've heard conflicting opinions on whether the letter of the law does.

And those issues aside, I feel like there could be more legal gotchas that I'm not anticipating to do with Handling Other People's Money.

Comment author: HonoreDB 13 October 2014 05:18:19PM 3 points [-]

What's the best way to get (U.S.) legal advice on a weird, novel issue (one that would require research and cleverness to address well)? Paid or unpaid, in person or remotely.

(For that matter, if anyone happens to be interested in donating good legal advice to a weird, novel non-profit organization, feel free to contact me at histocrat at gmail dot com).

Comment author: HonoreDB 03 September 2014 06:34:50PM 1 point [-]

Arthur Prior's resolution it to claim that each statement implicitly asserts its own truth, so that "this statement is false" becomes "this statement is false and this statement is true".

Pace your later comments, this is a wonderfully pithy solution and I look forward to pulling it out at cocktail parties.

In response to Rationalist Sport
Comment author: HonoreDB 18 June 2014 09:34:39PM 2 points [-]

I like people's attempts to step outside the question, but playing along...

LW-rationalists value thinking for yourself over conformity. A LW sport might be a non-team sport like fencing, a team sport in which individuals are spotlighted, like baseball, or a sport that presents constant temptation to follow cues from your teammates but rewards breaking away from the pack.

LW-rationalists value cross-domain skills. A LW sport might involve a variety of activities, like an n-athlon, or facing a quick succession of opponents who all trained together so that lessons learned against one are likely to apply to the next.

LW-rationalists value finding ways to cooperate with people whose values are different. A LW sport might involve a tension between behavior that supports the team and behavior that wins personal glory, like basketball, or it might involve more than 2 sides and more than 1 winner with potential for cooperation.

LW-rationalists value an ability to recognize when a previously useful heuristic isn't working, and break out of it. A LW sport might involve subtle shifts in the playing field that weaken some strategies and strengthen others.

Comment author: gwern 03 September 2013 06:24:01PM 3 points [-]

Do you really think the existence of oppression is a figment of Marxist ideology?

I'm perfectly happy to accept the existence of oppression, but I see no need to make up ways in which the oppression might be even more awful than one had previously thought. Isn't it enough that peasants live shorter lives, are deprived of stuff, can be abused by the wealthy, etc? Why do we need to make up additional ways in which they might be opppressed? Gould comes off here as engaging in a horns effect: not only is oppression bad in the obvious concrete well-verified ways, it's the Worst Thing In The World and so it's also oppressing Einsteins!

If being poor didn't make it harder to become a famous mathematician given innate ability, I'm not sure "poverty" would be a coherent concept.

Not what Gould hyperbolically claimed. He didn't say that 'at the margin, there may be someone who was slightly better than your average mathematician but who failed to get tenure thanks to some lingering disadvantages from his childhood'. He claimed that there were outright historic geniuses laboring in the fields. I regard this as completely ludicrous due both to the effects of poverty & oppression on means & tails and due to the pretty effective meritocratic mechanisms in even a backwater like India.

Even if the mean mathematical ability in Indians were innately low (I'm quite skeptical there)

It absolutely is. Don't confuse the fact that there are quite a few brilliant Indians in absolute numbers with a statement about the mean - with a population of ~1.3 billion people, that's just proving the point.

to become a mathematician, you have to, at minimum, be aware that higher math exists, that you're unusually good at it by world standards, and being a mathematician at that level is a viable way to support your family.

The talent can manifest as early as arithmetic, which is taught to a great many poor people, I am given to understand.

I'm fairly confident that confessing to poisoning someone else's food usually gets you incarcerated, and occasionally gets you killed (think feudal society or mob-ridden areas), and is at least a career-limiting move if you don't start from a privileged position.

Really? Then I'm sure you could name three examples.

Goedel didn't become clinically paranoid until later, but he was always the sort of person who would thoughtlessly insult an important gatekeeper's government, which is part of what I was getting at

Sorry, I can only read what you wrote. If you meant he lacked tact, you shouldn't have brought up insanity.

Ramanujan was more politic than your average mathematician.

Really? Because his mathematician peers were completely exasperated at him. What, exactly, was he politic about?

Comment author: HonoreDB 04 September 2013 12:16:04AM *  4 points [-]

the effects of poverty & oppression on means & tails

Wait, what are you saying here? That there aren't any Einsteins in sweatshops in part because their innate mathematical ability got stunted by malnutrition and lack of education? That seems like basically conceding the point, unless we're arguing about whether there should be a program to give a battery of genius tests to every poor adult in India.

The talent can manifest as early as arithmetic, which is taught to a great many poor people, I am given to understand.

Not all of them, I don't think. And then you have to have a talent that manifests early, have someone in your community who knows that a kid with a talent for arithmetic might have a talent for higher math, knows that a talent for higher math can lead to a way to support your family, expects that you'll be given a chance to prove yourself, gives a shit, has a way of getting you tested...

I'm fairly confident that confessing to poisoning someone else's food usually gets you incarcerated, and occasionally gets you killed (think feudal society or mob-ridden areas), and is at least a career-limiting move if you don't start from a privileged position.

Really? Then I'm sure you could name three examples.

Just going off Google, here: People being incarcerated for unsuccessful attempts to poison someone: http://digitaljournal.com/article/346684 http://charlotte.news14.com/content/headlines/628564/teen-arrested-for-trying-to-poison-mother-s-coffee/ http://www.ksl.com/?nid=148&sid=85968

Person being killed for suspected unsuccessful attempt to poison someone: http://zeenews.india.com/news/bihar/man-lynched-for-trying-to-poison-hand-pump_869197.html

Sorry, I can only read what you wrote. If you meant he lacked tact, you shouldn't have brought up insanity.

I was trying to elegantly combine the Incident with the Debilitating Paranoia and the Incident with the Telling The Citizenship Judge That Nazis Could Easily Take Over The United States. Clearly didn't completely come across.

Really? Because his mathematician peers were completely exasperated at him. What, exactly, was he politic about?

He was politic enough to overcome Vast Cultural Differences enough to get somewhat integrated into an insular community. I hang out with mathematicians a lot; my stereotype of them is that they tend not to be good at that.

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