$1,000 Bounty for Pro-BLM Policy Analysis

by Taymon Beal1 min read18th Jun 202010 comments


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I want to know what Americans with no particular relevant expertise should do in order to achieve the policy goals of the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States. I'm offering a $1,000 bounty (payable directly to you or to a charity of your choice) to whoever provides the analysis on this question that I find most informative in answering this question.

For any given proposed recommended action, I want to know *which* policy goals it will help achieve, *how* it will help achieve them, and *why* it should be expected to do so—bearing in mind that most political interventions do not achieve their intended outcomes, so the burden is on the proponents of any given intervention to explain why it is worthwhile.

The analysis to beat is Chloe Cockburn's from the Open Philanthropy Project (part 1; part 2). If nobody offers an analysis that I find more informative than that one, the bounty will not be awarded. (Note, though, that I'm not expecting anything nearly as long or comprehensive as that document! If you offer one single recommendation, and successfully answer the above questions about it, that's better than a long list of things without a clear bottom line or clear justifications.)

The deadline is Sunday, July 5. I will judge the submissions in my sole discretion. I may additionally award smaller bounties to non-winners who nonetheless end up influencing my thoughts on what should be done, or on how to judge the submissions. Please don't hesitate to submit something just because you don't think it's worth $1,000.

Submissions may be posted publicly in the comments of this post, or sent to me via private message. I'm also cross-posting this to Facebook and Tumblr.

10 comments, sorted by Highlighting new comments since Today at 1:04 PM
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Just to clarify: When you say pro-BLM policy, what exactly does that mean?

BLM as an organisation has some subjective and some objective demands. BLM as a broader movement obviously has an even greater scope. Which areas are considered as problems is also variant, as is the priorities one would place on them.

How to do you feel about heretics replying to your offer? I like money, capitalism, and arguing, but I'm also not on the same page ideologically here. Where is this bounty on the spectrum of saying the right things with the right language (obviously not my forte) versus achieving concrete goals by efficacious means?

Some of the stated positions are likely to be a very hard sell. Given that is so, what's your acceptable time frame for implementation? If I start talking generationally is that too long? In the same vein, are smaller or limited returns acceptable outcomes?

I'm not American, does this disqualify me? BLM is very much leaking out of America, and issues of race and policing exist everywhere there's racial difference and police. I am of the opinion that a lot of opinion is transposable in and out of America, but I'm not one setting the judging criteria here.

Cross-posting from Facebook:

Any policy goal that is obviously part of BLM's platform, or that you can convince me is, counts. Police reform is the obvious one but I'm open to other possibilities.

It's fine for "heretics" to make suggestions, at least here on LW where they're somewhat less likely to attract unwanted attention. Efficacy is the thing I'm interested in, with the understanding that the results are ultimately to be judged according to the BLM moral framework, not the EA/utilitarian one.

Small/limited returns are okay if they're the best that can be done. Time preference is moderately high (because that matches my assessment of the BLM moral framework) but still limited.

Suggestions from non-Americans are fine.

Weaponizing Capitalism

The values of BLM have long been shared by many Americans who have taken "indirect" action. They have voted based on the values, shared their views with people who wanted to listen and maybe sent letters and emails to the people in power. Change was attempted through influencing others to do the right thing.

This is a slow way to create change, and may not be effective. What happened to George Floyd motivated people to take more direct action. They broke with the expected way to cause indirect change and made more noise. Large protests and other actions to _demand_ change rather than relying on "safe" influence.

I believe that Americans who want to help achieve the policy goals of BLM can best do so through direct means.

In practice this can be done by taking a page from the libertarian playbook.

The BLM demands can be boiled down to: "the state, in it's current form, is insufficient and can not be trusted"

Trying to change this insufficient and untrustworthy institution isn't easy. It naturally resists change, and a coup is not something that should be done lightly.

But what about circumventing the state? Liberalism, and Anarcho-capitalism especially, has long claimed that a state may not be necessary. Whether or not you believe that to be true, the proposed mechanisms for a society without a central government could still be actively used in the BLM fight.

Here is a practical example:

Demand: "A systemic inquiry by the Office of the Independent Police Review Director to gauge whether there has been adequate disciplinary action taken against officers who use force against black people living with mental health issues"


Direct solution: Set up a bounty to incentivize investigative journalism into these cases. There are easy-to-use platforms to arrange such collection of bounty-money already, and it can be spread through social media. As the bounty grows, so does the motivation for investigative journalists to claim it. Pay-out only happens to journalists who manage to uncover and publish a strong case that a specific officer did not receive adequate disciplinary action.

Result: The failings of the current system gets exposed. An effective inquiry happens outside of the established Independent Police Review. It is clear that this was possible and necessary, yet the system did not take action. Trust in the system crumbles. The state has to adapt; it has to change. If people lose trust in the system, and find they can only get justice by circumventing it, this is the beginning of the end.

My example may not be the best. My overall proposal is for the regular American to find ways to *directly* cause the positive effects instead of relying on influence alone. When such a move is successful it creates positive change right away *and* becomes influential on the political scale as well.

Anybody can contribute to a bounty. There are likely platforms that already support such a thing, so setting it up may not be that hard either. Worst case it takes a BLM software developer to get the ball rolling.

I'm not an American and don't understand in detail how your politics works, so I'm sorry if this is naive, but. It seems that to achieve its stated goals of police reform, BLM movement should do the following:

1. Launch a nationwide discussion on how exactly the police should be reformed.

2. Come to a consensus policy that BLM supports and Republicans don't find completely unreasonable.

3. Vote for politicians who support this policy.

Democrats are 50% of the population, and libertarians are just as concerned about police violence, so together you form a majority and can pass any police reform you want. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

[This comment is no longer endorsed by its author]Reply

The question was not what the "BLM movement" should do, but what an individual Americans should do; your steps do not seem actionable for individuals. Your steps 1 and 2 also partly beg the question.

Additionally, assuming the support of all Democratic politicians is highly dubious; a number of cities that have been marked by highly visible abusive police behavior in recent weeks are already controlled by Democratic mayors and city councils, who in many cases have nonetheless refused to hold the police accountable. And support of 50% of the population (which BLM now has) is certainly not always enough to pass "whatever policy you want" absent coordinated organization and in the face of political inertia; for example marijuana legalization has had majority nationwide support for years but has no near-term prospect of passage at the federal level.

Sorry, I've realized they have a list of demands already. https://blacklivesmatter.ca/demands/

Yes, I'm conflating "BLM movement" and "individual Americans who want to help BLM achieve its goals" because isn't it the same thing. Ok, from what you've told me, it sounds like getting Republican support is the easiest way to achieve change.

With that in mind, actionable points (for a generic BLM supporter not just for lesswrongers, I think you probably aren't bullying anyone already):

  • propose your own policy ideas, e.g. like Eliezer did on Facebook
  • stop bullying everyone who disagrees with you, so you can learn what they think and find solutions that both sides support
  • defend shops from looters so people have more sympathy for your side
Yes, I'm conflating "BLM movement" and "individual Americans who want to help BLM achieve its goals" because isn't it the same thing.

No? I want to help BLM achieve its goals, but "launch a nationwide discussion" and "come to a consensus policy" are not actions I can personally take. If I post policy proposals on Facebook it seems unlikely to me that many people will read or be influenced by them; it also seems unlikely that they would be better than many other policy ideas already out there. If you actually do think that lack of policy ideas is the most important bottleneck for BLM and that personal Facebook posts by non-experts is a promising way of addressing it then that's a possible answer, but if so I'd like to see your analysis for why you believe that.

find solutions that both sides support

Note that at the national level this is inherently very difficult because for any proposal made by one party, the other party has an incentive to oppose it in order to deny the proposing party a victory (and the accompanying halo of strength and efficacy). But fortunately this is not necessarily a problem for at least some approaches to the police reform issue, because police are mostly controlled by state & city governments, and as noted many states and cities are under undisputed Democratic Party control, so the relevant politics are within rather than between parties.

defend shops from looters so people have more sympathy for your side

This seems to have already been done; reports of looting have become increasingly rare and polls report public sympathy for BLM is very high.

polls report public sympathy for BLM is very high.

Wow, I actually haven't expected that at all.

Maybe many years ago this turn of events would seem natural to me. People care about each other and stand up for each other when someone gets hurt, right? Well, wrong. At least in Russia, most people don't care much about victims of police violence, as I've found. And in USA it seems to only be about black people. So while I can see why Democrats are supporting their ingroop, I don't get the increase in Republican support. Could people be lying about their views because they're afraid of repercussions for expressing wrong ones? Seems like a big stretch.

My people believed in nonviolent protest, and lost. While I'd broken away from the doctrine and cheered for people who fought back against cops, I've always thought that pointless violence against innocents would make people hate me. (Or do they just hate the cops even more? I didn't notice that.) Will people like my politics more if I go loot some shops? Or is it something else they did right.

I walk away from you guys totally confused about how it all really works.

Democrats are 50% of the population, and libertarians are just as concerned about police violence, so together you form a majority and can pass any police reform you want.

Unfortunately that's not really how the government works here. To pass anything, you need a majority in the house, and in the senate, and to have the president, or to have a 2/3 majority in both the house and senate. There are approximately zero libertarians in congress, and currently democrats only have a majority in the house, not in the senate, and obviously Trump is president. So anything that passes can only be things that Trump and at least a few senate republicans agree on (or a lot of house republicans and a lot of senate republicans).

The senate is biased towards more representation for people living in states with low population (there are two senators per state), so rural areas get more representation in the senate, and thus republicans get overly represented in the senate. The system is set up like this so that they could get small states to agree to join the US back in the 1700s.

Wow, thanks, things make more sense now.