paulfchristiano's Comments

Moral public goods
I feel like you've come up with an example where people are just barely charitable enough that they support redistribution, but not charitable enough that they would ever give a gift themselves. This is a counterexample to Friedman's claim, but it's not obvious that it's real.

For consequentialists, the gap between "charitable enough to give" and "charitable enough to support redistribution" seems to be more than a million-fold; if so, I don't think it warrants that "just barely" modifier.

Hedonic asymmetries

I think this part of the reversed argument is wrong:

The agent will randomly seek behaviours that get rewarded, but as long as these behaviours are reasonably rare (and are not that bad) then that’s not too costly

Even if the behaviors are very rare, and have a "normal" reward, then the agent will seek them out and so miss out on actually good states.

Moral public goods
Why do we see so little of that for global poverty?

I'm not convinced this is the case. Do you have some comparisons of international spending on different public goods, or lobbying for such spending?

(I agree that there is more international coordination on arms control, but don't think that this is analogous.)

Hedonic asymmetries
For example, if the world is symmetric in the appropriate sense in terms of what actions get you rewarded or penalized, and you maximize expected utility instead of satisficing in some way, then the argument is wrong. I'm sure there is good literature on how to model evolution as a player, and the modeling of the environment shouldn't be difficult.

I would think it would hold even in that case, why is it clearly wrong?

Moral public goods
Where does most of the income of rich people come from, then?

I think it's mostly wages.

Can you point me to some relevant resource?

Might be misreading, but see table III here (h/t Howie Lempel for the source). Looks like even the top 0.01% is still <50% capital income.

[Edit: though in the past the capital shares were higher, in 1929 gets up to 50% of income for the top 0.1%.]

There are various ways this data isn't exactly what you want, but I still think it's very unlikely that it's more than half capital income.

Moral public goods
'Redistribution' (ie. theft) is an exercise in pointlessness.

Using coercive force to fund public goods is also 'theft', but still it can end up with near-unanimous support. So I don't think that this is a good argument in and of itself.

As long as there is scarcity there will be haves and have nots, and wealth will accumulate as a natural function of time and successful strategies. You can reset the game board as often as you like but you can never ensure a permanent and even stalemate. Even assuming you could destroy the entire point of competing, well then you've destroyed everything you get from that too.

This post isn't really about leveling the playing field. (Even in the stupid example with nobles, the nobles still end up 1000x richer than the peasants.)

Moral public goods
I don't understand the new model that you're proposing here. If people want to see a world free from extreme poverty and view that as a public good provision problem, shouldn't they advocate for or work towards international coordination on achieving that? (Given international coordination on other issues, this clearly isn't an impossible goal.) Why are they unilaterally chipping in small amounts towards reducing poverty in a piecemeal fashion?

This seems to be how people relate to local public goods.

I've been modeling this as people having moral uncertainty which are modeled as factions within someone's brain, where the altruist faction has control over some (typically small) fraction of their budget.

I think that's a better model than fixed weights for different values, but I don't think it explains everything.

Moral public goods

In this model the nobles don't recommend a further tax if in aggregate they have 50% of the total income, utility is logarithmic, and they care about themselves as much as everyone else put together.

(This is a good argument that this model may just not capture your intuition. But I do think the case for taxes is in fact quite a lot better when the nobles collectively control a large share of the income rather than just being individually wealthy.)

Moral public goods

I agree that this is more like the dilemma for modeling someone as a welfarist than a general consequentialist (if they were a total utilitarian then I think they'd already be committed to option 2). But I think you do have similar problems with any attempt to model them as consequentialists.

Moral public goods

The post is just arguing that redistribution can behave like a public good, it's not arguing for increases in redistribution. (I think the quantitative behavior of the hypothetical is not at all like the real world, there isn't a small group that gets 90% of the income, and the optimal tax rate is very sensitive to the fraction of income the nobles start with.)

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