All of FCCC's Comments + Replies

I appreciate it. If I do write a longer version, it won't be on here, because I have no tools to moderate the comment section.

How would the enforcement perpetuity be valued? I agree, it would not be worth $1T at the moment before default because the market would assign some probability that the legislators would follow through the land value tax. Now, the important question is, “Does that matter?” I say no, it doesn't, and my reasoning is as follows.

If you bought a $100M lottery ticket, what's it worth before the numbers come out? Basically zero. But what ... (read more)

Then surely you can twist some part of the constitution to find some relevance to land value taxes as I’ve proposed them. If you can, then credit where credit’s due, you have a point worth considering. If you can’t, then your concerns seem a lot less plausible.

Also, do you concede you were wrong about the U.S. not taking on $1T of debt? Because it seems like you’re really confident about things that you shouldn’t be confident about. Like, stuff that a simple google search would disconfirm. I suspect you have a real problem admitting error. In our other conversation, you totally just Smoke Bombed without so much as a “Oh, my bad”.

It's not hard. "Reducing the value of the land is illegal as an uncompensated taking" or "this tax is unconstitutional because it violates the rule about direct taxes" (twisting the definition of direct tax so they can include it, of course) or even just due process because if the tax is instituted, the owner has no way to contest it. You could say "those arguments are obviously wrong, so they don't count". You could say "they don't apply those arguments in other situations--that's special pleading and sophistry". But it doesn't matter how good or bad the Constitutional arguments are, only that a court would make them. And of course from our point of view 50 years in the past, they are obviously bad arguments to everyone, but 50 years in the past, Constitutional arguments about gay marriage were obviously bad too. No. The national debt is 33T total, so 1T is a substantial portion of it. Nothing like that can, in practice, be put into place without a complete political realignment.

Let me put it this way, I don’t think it was sarcasm.

I explicitly asked for "legislation that has nothing to do with the constitution", because that's what's actually relevant here. Then you bring up legislation that was struck down based off the 14th amendment's equal protection and due process clauses.

Have you got any examples that actually meet the specified criteria (i.e. within the last 100 years, laws that are legislation, that were struck down by the supreme court without even a tenuous reference to the constitution)? If you don't have any examples, then you need to concede that point, and then reference any places in the constitution that could, even unfairly, be used to invalidate my specific proposal (land value tax).

One prominent method by which the courts overturn things is by stretching and twisting the Constitution to cover the thing they want to overturn. It's going to "have something to do with the Constitution" after the fact, even if it didn't before. I'm pretty sure that if you had described the Defense of Marriage Act 50 years before the fact to just about any judge or lawyer, they'd have said it had nothing to do with the Constitution, just like a land tax.

The type of law my proposal falls under is legislation. So you should give an example in the last 100 years where the supreme court invalidated legislation that has nothing to do with the constitution. (Roe vs Wade not being an example, because it's not legislation.)

Or concede that the supreme court hasn't overturned legislation that has nothing to do with the constitution in the last 100 years, and then point to any constitutional reason the court could give for overturning the specific policy I've advocated for (land value tax with a delay and a debt).

The Defense of Marriage act was legislation.

Your argument is too powerful. And by that, I mean it classifies all policy arguments as dumb. “Oh you want to do X? Well the whole system is screwed up, so you’re naïve for even suggesting it.” Substitute any policy that could conceivably involve the courts for X. That’s your argument. If your arguments can’t delineate between good and bad ideas, your arguments have no value.

Yes, this is something that the court can do to any policy. If you'll notice, high profile Supreme Court decisions are supposedly decided based on the Constitution, but actually depend on the political affiliations of the judges. It's already happening. That doesn't mean that the system is completely screwed up, that means that the system is screwed up for any politically significant policy that the court wants to overthrow. You shouldn't ask yourself if the policy violates the Constitution; you should ask yourself if the policy is politically significant. If it is, whether the court lets it through depends on politics, not on the Constitution. In the specific case of decisions many years in the future, the fact that the political landscape changes after so many years makes it more likely that the court's decision will be screwed up than if you just went to court today.

Why should I take your legal claims more seriously than something that can pass the bar exam, when you’re unable to? If you still don’t like that source, you could have googled my claim and found that you’re incorrect:

1M. Y. Zuo2mo
Okay if this is not written by ChatGPT, then I would recommend you to actually review records of the court, since they are publicly accessible online. The opinions are mostly written in normal college level English so you should be fine in comprehension with some focused effort. Or you can read some well respected analysis for non-experts, such as SCOTUSblog: This will probably resolve your confusion.  If you are using ChatGPT in   comments then the LW norm is to explicitly state it. And definitely don't take recommendations from it to the extent of using simple google queries as 'proof' of some kind. It's really detrimental to your account's credibility.
3M. Y. Zuo2mo
Huh that's interesting, though in this case it's clearly incorrect, the supreme court can obviously negate existing laws, previous judgements, etc... regardless of what you may think counts as 'unconstitutional', often even regardless of what eminent law professors may think. Trying to rely on something that you don't know enough to verify is not wise. Anyways, do you want to exit the conversation and let ChatGPT continue if it's not a joke?  I don't quite see the rationale otherwise for taking it seriously.

It is not possible for the debt to be anywhere near 1T because the government is going to refuse to get into debts that high, not because the number is not mathematically possible.

You're really not doing yourself any favours by claiming that the U.S. would never take on $1T of debt. It's currently $33T, and they need to continually roll over expiring debt. (Not to mention the fact that the exact number, $1T, plays no role in my argument whatsoever other than "big number that the government would not want to pay".)

ChatGPT4, which passed the bar exam, says you're wrong and that U.S. judges cannot overturn laws unless they are unconstitutional. This was my understanding. Speak to a legal professor, and see who's right here. There's no point discussing further until you do that.

2M. Y. Zuo2mo
Is this a joke?  If it's not, referencing 'ChatGPT' to answer a question regarding a quoted section of your own previous comment is too bizarre for me to make heads or tails of. At least, I'm assuming you wrote that prior comment?  EDIT: Since you appear to have added a claim that 'ChatGPT' 'passed the bar exam', could you please link the source? This is surprising news.

Right, but I'm not arguing against gay marriage. Again if you can explain how land value taxes are unconstitutional, I'm all for it. You're saying "people can misclassify". So? Tell me how I've misclassified it as constitutional, even potentially. If you're going to duck my actual question yet again, I'm not interested in discussing further.

The way you've "misclassified" it is that the court can say anything they want, and anything you say that disagrees with the court is, by the standards "who has the guns and enforces the rules", misclassification. You're not debating the court in a truth-seeking process where you get to win if you can show flaws in their arguments. It doesn't matter exactly what the court's reasoning is, since they are a court and you're not, and what they say goes. They just say it's unconstitutional, post some decision that I'm sure you'll disagree with, and voila, it's unconstitutional.

Oh, by “prove your proposal” I thought you were referring to the policies I would advocate for. Did you mean prove the enforcement perpetuities would work? In that case, it’s just a payoff matrix, and I’d have to show not reneging on the policy is the best course of action, which I've done in previous comments, but I'll summarise it one last time.

And even then all it would take is a single digit number of judges and the top decision makers in the debt market to disagree in 50 years time and the effort will be negated.

I have been very clear, I am not ad... (read more)

2M. Y. Zuo2mo
Why do you believe judges of the future won't be able to overturn it?   As a suggestion, being  fixated on 'constitutional reason' is detrimental.  The judgement opinions of the court don't need to be backed by any solid reasoning at all, let alone 'constitutional', sometimes even literally self-contradicting reasoning is used, and nonetheless they are still carried out. 
That's exactly what someone advocating for a 50 year delayed rule to make sure gay marriage is prohibited would have said, 50 years ago. It turns out that according to the only people who matter, yes he would have been advocating for unconstitutional policies.
It is not possible for the debt to be anywhere near 1T because the government is going to refuse to get into debts that high, not because the number is not mathematically possible.

I think your point is that this strategy only works if the voting block’s short-term interests conflict and their long-term interests don’t conflict. I fully agree with that.

If you do discover some method to prove this proposal with the rigor of a bonafide mathematical proof then that may be promising but otherwise…

Yeah, voting theory probably has the level of mathematical rigour that would satisfy you. I suggest diving into the topic on your own time. The pattern of explanation is essentially: “We want a policy in the domain of interest (e.g. voting) to satisfy criteria C because it would be ridiculous to argue against that criteria for reasons X, Y, Z. Here’s a logical proof that policy P satisfies criteria C.”

I’m highly ... (read more)

1M. Y. Zuo2mo
Did you intend to write down some other elaboration, or at least the beginning ideas of a possible proof, and forget?  Otherwise, how does this relate to my prior comment? (Especially the second paragraph seems like musings regarding some different comment)

I’ve given you quite a lot of thorough explanation as to why that position is wrong. I don’t think there’s any point discussing further.


Why are you ignoring my actual point?

That underlying point still stands: We should be confident that changing the electoral system is good, no matter what the future holds. Or rather, that we should be as confident as we can be about any policy change.

"As confident as we can be about any policy change" amounts to not very confident, especially so for making policy for 50 years hence.

Since society can change a lot in 50 years, this issue could very well be, in 2073, the equivalent of trying to make gay marriage illegal today.

I am confident that you don’t know much about land value taxes. I don’t think you wouldn’t make this claim if you did. From a broad theoretical perspective, they’re sound, though I’m not 100% sold on some implementation details. But as I said in the earlier article, “the examples I’ve given are simply for clarity”. I probably should have restated that here.

To give you an actual example of a policy that I’m 100%... (read more)

3M. Y. Zuo2mo
If your proposal is intended to be foolproof even 50 years hence, then yes you would need to defend it for many many variations, even if each scenario has a tiny chance because cumulatively they add up to a substantial chance. Especially since you would need to convince many folks in Washington to actually implement it in reality. And even then all it would take is a single digit number of judges and the top decision makers in the debt market to disagree in 50 years time and the effort will be negated. If you do discover some method to prove this proposal with the rigor of a bonafide mathematical proof then that may be promising but otherwise…

It’s not possible for the debt to be anywhere near 1T.

I suggest you look up the formula for the value of a 50-year inflation-adjusted annuity, and the value of an inflation-adjusted perpetuity, and plug in some realistic values. You’re 100% wrong here, so I don't know why you're making this claim so strongly. (A caveat, which I've already stated, is that the discount rate at the 50-year mark is around the same as it was upon issuance.) It's $1T exactly because of the lottery argument I gave.

You can’t have a debt which disappears only if gay marriage i

... (read more)
The problem with your proposal is that a sufficiently motivated legal system will just abrogate it. In order to have a scenario where the system is sufficiently motivated, it would have to be something like gay marriage. There will be things that people 50 years in the future will treat like they treat gay marriage now. Of course your proposal will work for some policy that nobody cares about. The test is how it works on policies that people do care about.
1M. Y. Zuo2mo
Since society can change a lot in 50 years, this issue could very well be,  in 2073, the equivalent of trying to make gay marriage illegal today. So it's possible that it will simply get laughed out of court and anyone serious, whose opinions matters in the government debt market, will also brush it off. You pretty much do need to defend the class of 'nearly all possible policy proposals' to credibly account for unknown value and culture drift over 50 years.

The pure mathematics of voting systems, being mathematics, exists likewise, but its application to the physical world, like all applied mathematics, is contingent on the real world conforming to its ontology and its axioms.

I never would have disputed this. But you’re being binary: basically “either we know it or we don’t”. It's not that you're wrong, it's that your categories aren't useful in practice. You're implicitly bucketing things you're 99.9% sure about with things that you're 20% sure about.

In contrast, my view is that you should assign some cre... (read more)

On a scale of 100,000 years, it pretty much is binary. Mathematics will not change; basic physical law also (although some of it may come to be seen as limiting cases of some more general ideas); little else can be counted on on that timescale. This feels somewhat analogous. In the short term, of course things can be a lot more variable. The longer the chain of reasoning built on uncertain assumptions, the further it may drift from reality.

On the first point, if they renege on the policy, the debt is worth $1T if they don’t default (assuming the same discount rate as it was upon issuance). It’s like if you bought a $1M lottery ticket and you won but they didn’t pay out. By your argument, “The ticket was never worth much, so it doesn’t matter”. In reality, that logic doesn’t fly. You’d be very upset, and rightfully so. Again, you could ask other finance professionals their opinion; I don’t think I’m going to convince you.

But yeah, good second point, I retract the method of default not matter... (read more)

It's not possible for the debt to be anywhere near 1T. More generally, it's not possible for the debt to be anything that the government wouldn't be willing to pay as a normal expenditure. "$1T to make sure gays won't get married 50 years from now when it's only weirdoes who think something that absurd would ever happen" won't fly. Void for being against public policy. You can't have a debt which disappears only if gay marriage is illegal, if the courts say that there's a right to gay marriage. The intent of the debt is to encourage unconstitutional actions on the part of the government, which is against public policy. Because the whole point of this scheme is to insure against social changes that prevent the government from following through on the 50 year commitment. Obviously those changes would be more likely to show up near the end of the period, not the beginning.

The only reason I gloss over it is its implausibility to me. I think that defaulting on $1T of debt, no matter how odd the conditions are, would significantly affect the credit-worthiness of a country. I think it’s rather obvious that it would. I’d say it’s akin to a government claiming “Oh don’t worry, we’re just defaulting on the debt issued in 2023, the rest of our debt is safe”. Nor does it matter how the debt is defaulted (e.g. by the courts), if you’re an investor.

If you disagree with that assessment, you can speak to other finance professionals. Specifically, I’d recommend people who do credit risk modelling. If you do have those discussions, let me know what they think.

Remember that the government is "defaulting" on debt that the owners of the debt are supposed to expect might go away anyway if the policy is passed. So nobody should be able to rely on the debt anyway. And it absolutely does matter that the courts declared the debt invalid, because 1) the courts are supposed to decide based on the law, not based on how it changes the government's reputation and 2) the investor can see the court decision and understand that it's made for reasons that apply to weird debts and not to normal debts, reducing the hit in reputation.

Me: “For the CCP to declare themselves as ‘Communist’ means they are likely to disregard much granularity that good policy must have”

You: “The fact that North Korea someone publically declares themselves to be democratic in the name of their country. That tells you little about how it’s actually governed.”

Again, to highlight the problem, I said “Countries that call themselves communist tend to do this communist thing”, which is demonstrably true. Then you overgeneralised it to “Anything that calls itself an X acts like an X” and then gave an example of you... (read more)

There are cases where there's a consensus among lawmakers that it would be good to do something and there's current opposition that can be circumvented by writing the law into the future

This is exactly my point. It's actually the entire point of the article. Everything else was simply trying to describe this problem and give examples so that it's easier to understand. Whether anyone agrees with the examples does not matter. The article literally emphasises this point: “The examples I’ve given are simply for clarity.”

Actually addressing your specific e

... (read more)
No. You are not saying anything about the required initial buy-in by lawmakers in your article and you explicitly suggest that it's a strategy that people who aren't lawmakers can use.  I did not generalize things in the post you linked as well. The other post was about a very explicit claim you made about whether certain governments care about the granularity of policies. 

Well that's good, but regardless of how you feel, having no points on a post makes almost no one see it. At least for the current recommendation system we have. And as I said, LessWrong should be a place where the best ideas can be considered, not hidden. I don't think it currently lives up to that.

No, you're universalising my claim to something that I don't agree with. My claim is not that the short-term interests of those in power always prevent the institution of policies that are in the long-term interests of the country, or that this is always the main barrier.

My actual claim that it is sometimes it is the case. E.g. gerrymandering. E.g. Republicans arguing against the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. And so on. And just because ballot initiatives can be started, doesn't mean they're going to pass into law. They can still have the misal... (read more)

The unborn have no political power to get laws passed whether the law comes into force today or in a hundred years.  There's zero incentive for a congressman to put work into progressing a bill that does something in a hundred in which nobody has an interest.  You claimed that there's something specific that preventing them from being passed into law, namely the opposition of Republicans and Democrats. Those groups control the legislature but not ballot initiatives.  Actually addressing your specific example is not strawmanning.  Concretely, someone making a ballot initiative to change the voting system has an option to write in a provision that it will only kick into effect in X years in the future. In practice, I would expect that this would not help the ballot process to get passed but more likely reduce it's chances of success because it demotivates the participants.  There are cases where there's a consensus among lawmakers that it would be good to do something and there's current opposition that can be circumvented by writing the law into the future, but the strong clarity among lawmakers that something would be good does not exist in the examples that you mentioned. In Berlin where I live, a reform that reduced the amount of districts in Berlin and thus the number of majors of districts is one example. It was written into the future to get less opposition from people currently being in the district governance. This was possible because there was a strong political will to do government reform to cut costs within the governing coalition. There exists no such will in the kind of cases you mentioned. 

The reason the U.S. has been able to pay a low interest rate on its debt is because of investors' trust that the U.S. will fulfil its promises (namely, pay its debts on time, and target inflation).

If the U.S. steals money in the eyes of its investors, then the U.S. will be forced to pay a higher interest rate on all of its future debts. Essentially, they would lose some of their customers. So some investors sell, and the only possible buyers are their remaining customers, who would then be overweight on U.S. debt. So the remaining customers would demand a ... (read more)

The problem with this reasoning is that it assumes that all debts are the same and that therefore when the US fails to make good on this debt, that extends to the US's credibility for debts in general. You gloss over this point by asking "how much" while ignoring that "how much" includes "not really anything significant". You can't just assume it's significant. This also ignores the possibility that the decision to discard the debt is made by a branch of the government that doesn't care about the US's reputation. For instance, the courts might declare the debt to be against public policy, or even unconstitutional.

Spitballing is fine, but I feel like in most of those cases, the user should make it a New Question, not a New Post.

Would you downvote a new post that's thoughtful and interesting, but it's one that you strongly disagree with? If so, and if that user is new, basically no one else will see that post. Maybe you don't do this, but others do. I don't think this is a fair response, to essentially negate all of someone's work in writing a good essay. If downvotes didn't affect viewing priority, this would be much less of an issue.

I don't think people know how to downvote. Your idea is interesting and worth discussing, even if most readers strongly disagree with it. Downvoting means that “this is a waste of time”.

I think you've identified a real and serious problem, or at least gotten near it.

Imagine we have a million accounts posting regularly. Then it'll be near impossible for a new account to get their idea heard. If this forum is supposed to be a place where the best ideas can be considered, and we're honest about the fact that most ideas are either trite or wrong (my own includ... (read more)

1M. Y. Zuo2mo
It doesn't bother me since there are several advantages to having posts hover around the zero score mark. In fact it may even be desirable, and a stronger signal then the typical pattern,  in certain scenarios.

I'm not from the U.S., but if I recall correctly, it's the Department of the Treasury who issues new government debt (which is probably why those bonds are called “treasuries”), and I'd keep that responsibility with them. I don't think who issues these securities affects much, as long as they have the same oversight mechanisms as that of the issuance of typical government bonds.

Sure, you can't manipulate the world at will, but you can certainly predict some subset of future actions that will result from some subset of your own actions. People do this every day (e.g. “If I don't go to work, I'll be fired.”).

The plan I've laid out only doesn't work if the incentives fail for some reason.

Your suggested failure mode is that the government can simply not abide by a financial contract. But that is the government defaulting on its debt. I work in the finance industry. Government defaults are a very big deal with serious consequences for... (read more)

Whether it's considered serious to default on an ordinary debt need not have much to do with whether it's considered serious to default on an unusual type of debt like this.

Probably not good, which is why I've invented these “enforcement perpetuities”. As far as I know, nobody has used these financial instruments before, so we have no data on them, and must use logic instead. Your question is like asking the inventor of car whether anybody has travelled 100 miles an hour before. It's not only a totally irrelevant question, it's exactly the problem that I'm solving.

So, do you have any logical explanation on why enforcement perpetuities wouldn't sufficiently incentivize future governments? Either the future government can enact... (read more)

Why is it that mathematicians are confident about their results? It's evident that they are highly confident. And it's evident that they're justified in being confident. Their results literally hold for the rest of time. They're not going to flip in 100 years. So why is this the case?

Basically, there are a few stages of belief. Sometimes a belief is stated on its own without anything else. Sometimes a justification is given for that belief. And sometimes it's explained why that justification is a reliable indicator of truth. Now, you may think you have inf... (read more)

We can be confident of mathematics because mathematics is precise and explicit, and exists independently of space, time, and people. Its truths are eternal and we can become arbitrarily certain of them. This is not true of anything else. The pure mathematics of voting systems, being mathematics, exists likewise, but its application to the physical world, like all applied mathematics, is contingent on the real world conforming to its ontology and its axioms. Even given a flourishing future for humanity, it seems vanishingly unlikely that the Presidency or the US will even exist in 100,000 years, or that anyone by then will care much what they were. I would not even bet on there being anything resembling a presidency or a political state after that passage of time, or on any positive conjecture about how our descendants would be living.

Hmm, I didn't have the zero-carbon commitment in mind when I wrote this, but you're right, this post's idea is basically just a wider application of that. Although I do think my subsequent post is probably more novel (see here: Enforcing Far-Future Contracts for Governments).

As far as the tax changes go, I completely agree, forewarning is great, and totally underutilised. There's also a faster alternative, which is to nullify any immediate wealth transfers that result from the change. So for instance, if you're lowering the corporate tax, stock prices will... (read more)

Okay cool. And you didn't misread it the first time, I had to heavily edit it to make it clearer.

I work at an investment fund. If we held these assets, I assure you we would be trying to get paid if the government reneged. It would be a default, and government defaults are a very big deal with serious consequences for the country. So your suggestion is not really an option. Either the future government can enact the policy and get their debt wiped for free, or they can continue to pay the debt.

It's a very strong enforcement mechanism, since the benefit to enacting the policy is so high.

Defaults only matter due to reputation. But stopping a weird practice which no one else does doesn't really damage reputation.
1M. Y. Zuo2mo
What's stopping Congress in the 49th year from passing an exemption into law that lets the government then ignore it with minimal consequences?

I see your point about constitutionality, but I think something such as the electoral system falls within its remit, which was my recommendation. But yeah, I would have no problem with extending the uses of the constitution, although I know that others would.

I agree that the financial product is more promising, because of its generality. The interesting thing is that even if they issue the asset with the intention of breaking the promise, they lose basically nothing in net present terms (because those cashflows 50 years into the future are discounted by 1+... (read more)

On the point of explaining/losing and only having 5 words, I don't mean anything in the region of "you shouldn't have posted this for discussion" or that your posts about it here should be limited to 5 words. Only that I expect there would be major communications challenges if someone were to attempt implementing any of these ideas as actual political strategies, and that this would need to be anticipated and accounted for. I'm also realising I fatally misread your post about perpetuities; quite right, calling it a "bomb" would be inaccurate.
Constitutional law as a separate category with higher standards to make a change is the textbook way of making a law that isn't so easily un-made (that and international treaties). But of course making a change to the constitution requires a stronger consensus to begin with - and probably in most cases you could use that strong consensus to pass a law with immediate effect. I don't expect "this amendment shall require a unanimous vote to be repealed" would be a valid thing to include though - a regular amendment going through the normal process could still simply say "no it doesn't" and supersede the previous amendment. People may also have a sense that constitutional law has a specific proper role, and that making provisions that aren't to do with the fundamental architecture of how the government works is outside of that remit and thus unwise. So using it to change the voting system would be on-brand, but making arbitrary other changes would be susceptible to an accusation of "that's not what the constitution is for", in the battle for public opinion. Setting up financial products in such a way that the future government would be fiscally incentivised to follow through seems more promising, but might be more difficult to persuade current voters to go along with. Those inclined to oppose might find it easy to spread fear/doubt of anything too novel and unfamiliar; call it a trillion dollar future debt bomb or whatever. And you can try to explain that the "bomb" only goes off if the future government reneges on the current government's commitment, but "if you're explaining you're losing" and "you get about five words".

I've just written a post on how exactly to enforce these contracts: Enforcing Far-Future Contracts for Governments.

Let me know what you think!

I think it's rather unfair to classify me as a confidently underinformed fanatic. I've worked in federal government, the country's largest bank, and am now an investment analyst at a large fund. High confidence usually indicates overconfidence, sure, but that correlation breaks down when someone really has thought deeply about a topic. Mathematicians, for instance, are nearly 100% confident of long-known peer-reviewed claims.

I've written quite extensively on optimal policy methodology. Have a read here, The Benevolent Ruler’s Handbook (Part 1): The Policy ... (read more)

I'm sure you're informed. :) How are you going to know that 100 (or even 50) years in advance of them ever being implemented? This looks to me like solving AGI alignment by saying "we just have to ensure the AGI actually does what we want and stop anyone turning it off." I'm taking the outside view here and observing that knowing how society should work and making everyone do that has always worked out badly before. What would be different this time?

Let me start by saying I think I really should have said 50 years instead of 100. That seems to a big sticking point for people.

I haven't made myself clear. What I'm saying is create a contract to enforce the institution of a law. The government is the signatory, not any particular person. Governments can and do hold by agreements that past governments made, even if they disagree with their predecessors.

Now, sometimes they break those promises, and that's why I'm talking about creating a binding contract. As in, if you break the contract, a penalty occurs.... (read more)

So what happens when in 50 years the government just stops paying, without passing the law? Buyers of these instruments don't care about that law, so they will not object much, and there will be no reputation loss.

I'm not a legal expert, but I'm sure we've solved the problem of how to create a binding contract.

What's weird about the laws I've suggested?

Edit: I've figured out a solution

Laws are not contracts. No contract has the power to bind anyone but its signatories. No-one but the signatories has any standing to enforce a contract. A contract has no binding force against the common will of its signatories to alter or dissolve it. In some places, a contract has no binding force beyond some limited interval after the death of its signatories. Laws are passed by governments to impose obligations on the people. Laws have less power to bind the government itself, and almost no power to bind its successors. What laws one government can write, the next government can as easily erase.
I think repealing laws is a valid point. I assume you'd not only have to have the enactment of the law postponed, you'd also have add on extra terms that prevent a repealing. Maybe that's what you mean by "binding contract". Consider the example of Hunduras' ZEDEs. 

Depends on domain we're talking about. The post I linked in the last paragraph will probably answer your question in more detail than you'd ever want, but I'll answer it briefly here.

I'd very happily back the two examples that I gave. And that's because we can define reasonable optimality criteria for each of those areas (voting systems and tax policy) and show that our policy proposals satisfy those criteria under some reasonable assumptions.

The key point here is that, for the land value tax, the optimality criteria and the assumptions required are extrem... (read more)

Great post!

I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of EAs see my takes here as a slippery slope to warm glow thinking and wanton spending that needs to be protected against.

It's a shame that we have to caveat things like this when we write. Some readers, perversely, see what they don't want to see and will attack you for it.

I'm not sure why you think I'm generalising from one example. Sure, I wrote only one example, but this article is not the sum of my knowledge. There are many, many examples of this.

I'll give you another one. Policymakers in the area of university funding saw that universities were underfunded by about 15%. Their solution? Increase student fees by 15%. At no point did they ask themselves, “Why does funding get out of sync every decade?” Or “How could we design a system of scratch so that this will never be an issue, and so that degrees are always priced app... (read more)

2[comment deleted]4mo
1Lao Mein1y
Out of curiosity, what were your exact positions and returns?
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