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Are long-term investments a good way to help the future?

I'm not quite sure how you're defining "causal model" here, but the bit about "get paid to build a factory, which then produces goods, meanwhile you don't consume the goods you were paid" seems causal to me. By not consuming the proceeds of your work, you have caused society to have more capital than otherwise. Heck, the paragraph beginning "But suppose…" is also describing a series of causes and effects, although it glosses over exactly how removing money from circulation drives up the value of money (that's just basic microecon, though, I'm assuming you already understand that).

The rate of GDP growth isn't really the right thing to use (GDP is the total value of all transactions in the economy, which is fundamentally a meaningless number and is certainly irrelevant here). Burying the money creates capital that grows at the rate of return on capital. Investing the money does the exact same thing. The only difference is to whom the interest is paid.

Actually, on re-reading your post, I see another sign of confusion where you talk about "real value" and claim that trades can't create it. Value is a two-argument function; when you buy the stock, it's because the stock (or rather, the future consumption-opportunity it represents) is worth more to you than the present consumption you could buy with it. Meanwhile, the seller values present consumption (or whatever else he buys with the money today, which may even be just the security of having larger reserves of liquid currency as opposed to holding less-liquid, potentially risky shares of stock) more than the future consumption the stock represents. Value has been created, not by creating 'stuff', but by moving existing stuff to higher-valued uses.

Similarly, when you defer consumption into the future, you are moving current stuff from consumption to capital uses (because at least some of the resources you are no longer consuming will end up as capital formation (though not all of it because the price of consumption goods will fall slightly relative to the price of capital goods, but it can only do so because the equilibrium quantities shift)), and simultaneously moving future stuff (some of which is created by the capital uses of the current stuff) to consumption uses. As long as the rate of return on capital × your value ratio of future to present consumption is greater than 1, the combined effect is an increase in value. If you invest the money saved, then you capture the value thereby created (you're trading your future consumption against your current consumption); if you bury it, you don't: you're trading society's future consumption against your current consumption, but if you're a selfless utilitarian that's irrelevant.

Nightmare of the Perfectly Principled

I suppose a world without law at all would be one in which people habitually defect on the Prisoner's Dilemma. Even when it's the least 'true' a PD can be and still be a PD (so, iterated, with reputational incentives, all that stuff). There are no Schelling points, and thus no coördination: Nash equilibria and Moloch for all.

The "rule of law", perhaps, is a list of particular properties of the law (collection of Schelling points): that they contain no proper nouns, for example (the same law binds the King), that they do not discriminate on irrelevant/prejudicial grounds, etc. That is to say, that the law is neither arbitrary nor capricious (I will hereonin refer to this synecdochically as: the law is just). Of course, a society's beliefs about justice will be reflected in its informal law; thus a society will typically only see itself as lacking the rule of law inasmuch as its legislation, as enforced, is contrary to the principles of its informal law.

This is in contrast with your definition, under which (if I understand correctly) a society without the rule of law is one where enforcement doesn't follow the written legislation. Of course, the patterns in this mismatch are themselves part of (my-model) law; so if everyone agrees that a piece of legislation (say, the Fugitive Slave Law) is unjust and the refusal to enforce it is just, then the society has (or believes it has) my-rule-of-law but does not have your-rule-of-law (unjust legislation is not enforced).

Conversely, if the legislation is enforced even though most people believe it's unjust, then the society has your-rule-of-law but not (it believes) my-rule-of-law (unjust legislation is enforced).

If just legislation is enforced, then the society has both kinds of rule of law (since successful enforcement of legislation makes it law). If the legislation is just but selectively enforced in a way that is unjust, then the society has neither (because the selective enforcement creates law that is unjust).

Appeals to justice, and hence arguments based on my-rule-of-law, are subjective. But I would argue (had I not spent long enough on this response already) that justice itself is objective, even if we have not yet discovered all of its principles — and thus the same is true of my-rule-of-law.

The Case Against Education: Splitting the Education Premium Pie and Considering IQ

One cause might be that some of the underlying drivers of performance (of which IQ is but one) correlate with race. For a non-IQ-related example, if your interview process for a basketball team includes a jumping test, this will have a "disparate impact" because on average blacks jump better than whites. Therefore, even if you can demonstrate that you use the jump test because the regression analysis showed it was a good predictor of performance, the usual suspects will scream "algorithmic bias" and now even if you prove (possibly in both a court of law and the court of public opinion) that your regression analysis was correct and valid, you're still gonna get denounced by someone's Twitter campaign. Except that that doesn't happen because the colours are the wrong way round for the outrage mob, and besides the jump test is obvious enough without the regression analysis that people arguing against it sound dumb and people arguing in its favour don't sound abstruse and sophistic.

But if your defence is that "complicated statistical techniques say this metric predicts performance", suddenly it's a lot easier for people to accuse you of *ism as soon as any statistical imbalance shows up in the results of your hiring process.

Are long-term investments a good way to help the future?

Curiously, from a civilisational perspective it doesn't matter whether you invest the money or just stuff it in your mattress; either way you're creating capital relative to the alternative, which is to spend it now on some form of consumption. (Note that, in this view, charitable giving is a consumption good rather than a capital good. In practice, of course, it's more complicated, because Africans with mosquito nets are more likely to generate endogenous economic growth than Africans with malaria. But to first order, saving African lives is that-which-you-value, rather than a means of producing more of that-which-you-value; ergo, it's a consumption good.)

The key idea I think you might be missing is that capital is deferred consumption. That is, whenever we postpone our consumption from time X to time Y, we create capital that exists for the interval [X, Y). If we invest the money, this is obvious: the factory built with our investment is a capital good, and the profit we make depends on the stuff the factory makes being worth more than was invested to build it.

But suppose instead of investing the money, we just bury it for ten years. During those ten years, there is less money in circulation than otherwise, which drives up the value of money. I.e., it drives down the prices of goods. This means that all other holders of money now have access to slightly more capital, and can fund larger investments with the same number of banknotes. The capital is still created, and still produces a dividend, it's just that that dividend is now paid to people who are actively investing, instead of to us.

How can this be? Well, how did we earn the money in the first place? We produced some good or performed some service, and in return received only these green pieces of paper. If we just sit on them, they are sterile to us; but we still performed the service. Essentially, we are only paid for our work when we spend our wages on consumption goods (or services); it is in those goods that we are really paid. So burying our money for ten years is waiting ten years to present our claim upon society to be rewarded for the work we previously furnished. If that work was to build someone a factory, then for those ten years the factory is producing goods for a society that hasn't paid for the factory yet; if that work was to supply someone with consumption goods, then just follow the chain of substitutions / opportunity costs until you get to a capital good.

Of course, for this to work, someone has to be investing in actual capital goods; and the more people are doing so independently, the more loci of initiative are searching for profitable opportunities (and the fewer possibly-irrational trades you have to follow before hitting a capital good). So investing the money does slightly improve the system's efficiency at finding and making the best available investments. But it's the earning the money, not the investing it, that creates the value which, by deferral of consumption, becomes capital. (Thus, investing unearned income / ill-gotten gains does not create capital!)

Eight political demands that I hope we can agree on

I don't know if I count as part of the "movement", but I can't agree on these demands, because they all assume that notions such as "public policy" and "government" are valid and legitimate.

Suppose we were to turn them round and write them as negative demands; 5, 6, and 8 all reduce to freedom of contract. 7 is covered by "no crimes, only torts" since the concept of a "victimless tort" is obviously meaningless. 1 and 2 are fundamentally just questions of governance procedure, and become a lot less odious when you're not forced to live under / pay for a policy you don't support chosen by broken systems of governance. 3 and 4 are demands that other people's money be spent, and allowing such things is a gift to Moloch (see also: Olsonian scramble, rent-seeking); if we rule that out, we're left with "we want to be able to give our money to $CAUSE instead of having it taxed to fund causes we don't support" (causes like #7, come to think of it).

So rather than 8 demands, one principle would seem to suffice: "The support of a plurality of irrational humans is no license to trespass upon individual liberties". Then again, nothing provides such a license; a superintelligent AGI doesn't have the ethical right to do so either. Both the elected government and the AGI, in practice, have the power to do so (in the former case it's because most people believe democracy legitimises government and will support it), but if might makes right then we may as well not bother with AI alignment research ;-)

Nightmare of the Perfectly Principled

I think you're misusing the notion of "rule of law", possibly because of the Jewish-upbringing factors you mention. Economist Don Boudreaux would argue, after Hayek, that legislation and law are different things. My version of this, heavily influenced by David D. Friedman, is that law is really a collection of Schelling points, and legislation (the statute book) is one way (of many) in which new Schelling points can be created. This is far more obvious to someone who was brought up under the common-law system — and the US's legal tradition is, after all, derived mainly from English common law, which may help to explain why the US is not now a lawless hellscape.

Thus, your "Collaborator" is not really some kind of inconsistent or irrational person, just someone who follows the law even when it conflicts with legislation. And while that can lead to 'collaboration' with an unjust regime, it can also lead to civil disobedience and other forms of non-collaboration.

So while it may be fruitful to consider where people fall on your graph, I don't think your "Collaborators" fall in the upper left quadrant; I think you place them there because you misunderstand what ordered system such people are referring to when they talk about "the rule of law".

Cached Thoughts

most of us probably won't be able to find much of a trunk build that we can agree on

I think you're wrong as a question of fact, but I love the way you've expressed yourself.

It's more like a non-monotonic DVCS; we may all have divergent head states, but almost every commit you have is replicated in millions of other people's thought caches.

Also, I don't think the system needs to be Byzantine fault tolerant; indeed we may do well to leave out authentication and error correction in exchange for a higher raw data rate, relying on Release Early Release Often to quash bugs as soon as they arise.

(Rationality as software development; it's an interesting model, but perhaps we shouldn't stretch the analogy too far)

If a tree falls on Sleeping Beauty...

On the other hand, if you’re Dr. Evil and you’re in your moon base preparing to fire your giant laser at Washington, DC when you get a phone call from Austin “Omega” Powers

So, does this mean ata is going to write an Austin Powers: Superrational Man of Mysterious Answers fanfic?

Natural Laws Are Descriptions, not Rules

How exactly are abstract, non-physical objects -- laws of nature, living in their "transcendent aerie" -- supposed to interact with physical stuff? What is the mechanism by which the constraint is applied? Could the laws of nature have been different, so that they forced electrons to attract one another?

I feel I should link to my post The Apparent Reality of Physics right now. To summarise: both the "descriptions" and "rules" views are wrong as they suppose there is something to be described or ruled. The (to me, obvious) dissolution is to state that a Universe is its rules.

The Crackpot Offer

There is a further subtlety here. As I discussed in "Syntacticism", in Gödel's theorems number theory is in fact talking about "number theory", and we apply a metatheory to prove that "number theory is "number theory"", and think we've proved that number theory is "number theory". The answer I came to was to conclude that number theory isn't talking about anything (ie. ascription of semantics to mathematics does not reflect any underlying reality), it's just a set of symbols and rules for manipulating same, and that those symbols and rules together embody a Platonic object. Others may reach different conclusions.

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