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Surely, other things equal, your best estimate for future voting is current voting. It's more likely that another 20 will upvote than another 20 downvote. If you're only concerned with the outcome, your best strategy will be to downvote. Of course, you may feel really bad if you downvoted a comment below what you think it deserves, because you were responsible.

I didn't read EY as making that point. The 'hit points' analogy suggests that he's giving money priority over other things. Am I wrong?

In any case, there are some things that don't seem measurable in dollar terms: how much money would I accept to drop X% in social status or Y fewer friends? I have no idea. I'm not suggesting that people don't trade these things off, just that money is not a neutral currency with which we can compare the value of any two things. It allows for a imperfect but useful comparison of the subjective value of things for which a market exists. I know how much I'm willing to pay for a tomato or a computer because I'm accustomed to trading money for tomatoes, and thus I know that a marginal computer is worth more to me than a marginal tomato. I have no idea how much I would pay for a friend, in terms of money or tomatoes, because I have no experience trading these things off against each other.

Just noticed that taw makes the same signaling point below.

In our society, this common currency of expected utilons is called "money". It is the measure of how much society cares about something.

What is this 'society' of which you speak?

And why should we expect a common currency of utilions? Money can buy you lots of things, but not anything. Plenty of people give up lucrative careers for more satisfying ones. That doesn't negate your overall argument, but I think you're wrong on that particular point.

My view is that charity has less to do with actually helping the needy than with signaling compassion to others. If that's right, the relevant metric of charitableness could well be something like resources expended rather than benefit produced. Additionally, helping at the soup kitchen may be more visible and salient to others than giving money. A lot of people would be reluctant to actively inform others that they'd given $100 to helping the needy, but feel comfortable trumpeting their volunteering to all and sundry. If someone asks you what you've been doing, it's much easier to say 'helping at a soup kitchen' than 'working an hour and donating the proceeds to charity'.

I think a lot of religious signaling works because folks can signal commitment to a particular religious community. While publicly being an atheist/rationalist may make it harder to join a religious group, thus keeping you an atheist, I doubt it commits you to a particular organization. It seems to me that part of the reason religious communities are so stable is that so much of an individual's identity is tied to believing in this particular organization, having these particular goals, or following this particular charismatic leader. Strong and unqualified loyalty to a particular group seems at odds with rationalism.

A persuasive school of thought in the economics of religion suggests that in order to build community, churches often artificially increase barriers to exit and require all sorts of crazy behaviour to signal commitment, thus preventing free-riding. Irrational belief and the accompanying ritual seems to be pretty good at this. I'm not too sure how a rationalist community would fare in this respect...