Posts

A Funny Thing Happened While Selling Cory Booker to Vegans

Image
Last Friday I wrote a post in support of Cory Booker's presidency. The main audience was animal advocates, though I also aimed it at the general public and wrote about a number of his policies and politics that I think recommend him.

My original version of the post included a section that I decided to delete. In the deleted section, I predicted that a lot of people concerned with animals would immediately dismiss the first true animal advocate running for president based on other stances, something they would never do for human issues. It's striking to me how accurate my predictions are, so I thought it was worth sharing what I removed from the post, which I think underlines a problem not only among vegans but also on the left in general: that there is a socially-enforced ranking of issues that nearly everyone follows at the end of the day and that has little explicit justification.

The note is below the line.

-------------------------


I anticipate some on the vegan internet accus…

Booker 2020

Image
Cory Booker announced his presidential bid. I'm going to sign up to volunteer with his campaign as soon as it's possible, and I think he’s the candidate worth supporting. Here's why:

Trump has made clear that he intends to further incite white voters in 2020 with racist appeals, and so far Democrats don’t have a great idea how to combat it. One idea is to do the same thing on the left and try to use equally angry rhetoric, and I think this could work, but it's not the best bet because (a) Trump isn’t actually that popular, he’s just a puzzle in his extreme political tactics; (b) left-leaning voters are just not as angry or hateful; (c) the blue coalition is very mixed and hard to unify as a singular group. Also, even if it works, it's probably better to go with a positive message for the long-term health of American politics.

It seems to me that there are two things that may work. First, representing underrepresented voters most affected by Trump. Second, crafting a …

Be Careful About a Stubborn Attachment to Growth

Image
Rob Wiblin interviewed economist Tyler Cowen on the 80,000 hours podcast (“the show about the world’s most pressing problems and how you can use your career to solve them”) and as I would expect, it was a consistently stimulating conversation. Cowen presented on his new book, Stubborn Attachments, which argues that we should place dramatic importance on economic growth because most of humanity’s expected value lies in the future, and economic growth is the most reliable help we can offer future generations. I think the thesis is largely correct, and I'm glad he's making such a strong case for creating an economically prosperous future. I want to contend, though, that growth as conventionally measured does not always do justice to the sort of growth that matters for the long-term future.

Cowen makes a good case for providing future generations with as many resources as possible, but economic growth is a systematically imperfect measure of resources. In particular, it's not p…

On Animal Charity Evaluators' Review of the Save Movement

Image
There’s been a back and forth for the past few years about Animal Charity Evaluators’ research, and I have sympathized, in most cases, with both camps. As I’ve said before I have tremendous respect for ACE. I think their promotion of impact and evidence has greatly benefited the movement, and some of the subsidiary conclusions, that we should focus on farmed animals or that we should think about counterfactuals, are totally correct. At the same time, I think their research has had flaws that critics have correctly pointed out. A further reason for my support is my sense that ACE is steadily improving, and for this reason I wanted to note that I think ACE missed an opportunity to really follow its own growing body of research with its review of and decision not to recognize the Save Movement.

The Save Movement is a collection of people around the world who organize vigils at slaughterhouses to bear witness to the animals killed there. I participated with Save from around June 2017 throu…

Should Effective Charities Prepare for a Recession?

Image
I asked a number of people at effective altruism global in June a question that came to my mind: how would a recession affect charities aligned with effective altruism? A lot of people seemed to me to have concerns, and many people I talked to seemed to think their organizations did not have a plan for if a recession hits and donations decrease. I think that’s a problem worth some thought.



The effective altruism movement has now been booming for several years, with many EA-aligned animal organizations multiplying in size and achieving a cascade of long-sought cage-free pledges. EA-oriented meta organizations and those working on the long-term future of humanity have gained significantly more esteem. Evidence-based global development organizations have continued to be dominant in that sphere, even though they are increasingly less connected to self-described EA organizations. There is unmistakable growth.

That growth has occurred during the recovery from the Great Recession, a time when …

What I Learned from a Year Spent Studying How to Get Policymakers to Use Evidence

Image
The past year I was a senior research analyst at Northwestern University's Global Poverty Research Lab on a study of evidence-based policy. Specifically, our goal was to work on a question often on researchers' minds: how can I get my ideas acted upon?

To do this, I dug through a number of bodies of evidence on how science influences policy. One area I looked at is what is called "implementation science" in medicine, which looks at how to get doctors, nurses, and hospital administrators to adopt evidence-based practice. Another was a series of papers by social scientist Carol Weiss and her students on how policymakers in government agencies claim to use evidence. There is also a small literature on how to implement evidence-based policy in public schools, and a little work on policymaker numeracy. I've included a bibliography below that should be helpful for anyone interested in this topic.

Most of my year was spent on delving into attempts to scale up specific pol…

How I'm Voting in California's Overwhelming June Primaries

Image
I've finished going through the June 5th California primary election for Oakland, and below are my picks. If anyone disagrees with my choices, please make your case—most of these I do not feel strongly about, and I did not have time to thoroughly research all of them.

In general, the issue I care most about is opposing or at least not supporting animal agriculture. In most cases that's irrelevant, as I could not find any relevant positions. The rare exception is incumbent Senator Dianne Feinstein, who spearheaded the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, which is disqualifying. On top of that, she's historically supported mass incarceration and has buckled under to Trump until she started fearing primary challengers. Senator Feinstein deserves to lose badly. Everyone should vote for her most plausible opponent from the left, Kevin DeLeon, both now and in November. On top of that, if you can state publicly that you voted against her because of the AETA, that would be powerful.


As …